Friday, 24 October 2014

How I knew he was 'the one.'

Ten year ago, at this very minute, I married him, for the second time. 3pm on Sunday October 24th, 2004.

Technically and legally, our first wedding was a secret affair, merely to let my (then) Australian boyfriend remain in the country with me; we regarded it as 'the step between moving in together and actually getting married.' It was held at a registry office on the Kings Road, where Judy Garland, Roman Polanski and allegedly George Clooney all wed.  We told only a couple of close friends, who we asked to be our witnesses and signed on the dotted line a year to day of our first date. I wore a white suit and he wore a nervous smile.

Looking back on that day, some folks would have called me crazy, to marry a man I had only known for a year. But I knew, deep down, that he was the one for me. Even though it took him another 14 months to actually propose (then I had to sink a bottle of wine before I broke it to my Mother that we were in fact already wed, but yes there would be a wedding) and another year for us to have the actual church wedding and all the formal celebrations with all our friends and family.

Prior to meeting my Husband, when I was 28, I'd had 6 long years in the dating wilderness: filled with broken hearts (mine) and bloody awful dates. I had almost given up on 'the one' ever appearing. I'd quiz all my married friends, desperate to know how they 'knew' and what had separated Mr Right from all the Mr Wrongs that went before. Most people mystifyingly said things like, 'I just knew,' and 'it was different,' which was about as helpful as a chocolate kettle.

So how do you know when he is Mr Right as opposed to Mr Right-for-now? How can you be sure that he isn't gonna run off at the first hurdle, or he wants the same things out of life that you do? In short, how do you, 'just know?'

My answer is this: it all comes easily. Not that any relationship is easy - of course, over time there are all sorts of things to have to negotiate - but the thing I realised most about my Husband, when he was my new boyfriend, was that it all came easily. He didn't play games, he called when he said he would. He didn't play it cool, but nor did he chase me. It just felt like I'd known him a long long time, and every time we hung out, we had a great laugh. Plus I fancied the pants off him. Before him the men/boys I'd dated were all either: super hot and super dull, or really great but really unsexy. I just couldn't find someone that I wanted to go to the movies with and then snog the face off him later.

I met Husband because I walked through the wrong door in a hotel, hoping to find the bathroom, only to knock him on the head and send him flying. Turned out he was the cute barman and later, a bit tipsy, I gave him my number. He looked at that bit of paper as if I had handed him a used tissue. I didn't expect him to call, so I shouted as a passing shot, something like 'I believe in Carpe Diem, so if you call you call, if you don't you don't.'

He thought that was funny, and called. So my first idea about Mr Right - you'll never find him sitting waiting for him to come to you - get off your arse and give a hot guy your number.

Then he called, leaving the DULLEST message I have ever heard. Next bit of info: single ladies, if he sounds awful on the phone, do NOT despair - most men are useless on the phone.

He expected me to call him back and to be a 'sure thing.' Nice. I was busy with work, so didm;t get to call him back until 5 days later. We met for coffee - which is a BRILLIANT first date. Why? Because you don't get hammered and fall into bed with them and be filled with a well of regret and never see them again. Day time dates are ace - because you get to talk, see them in cold harsh daylight and all that stress of 'will he expect a kiss/shag/to come to mine' doesn't exist.

I waited 5 dates until he stayed over. Oh yes! Treat 'em mean! Every woman I know who waited 5 dates to sleep with someone, married them. TRUE STORY.

But how did I know that was 'different?' Well, on our second date, a heard that a friend of mine had died. A bit of a mood killer, on a date. But he was great - being supportive, taking me for some food and trying to be as understanding as he could, seeing as he barely knew me. A week later I attended the funeral and as I was on a coach home from it, very upset, he rang. He asked how the funeral had gone and how I was doing. When I asked about his day - he'd been to some excellent England v Australia cricket match, he didn't answer. Then he said, 'I called to see how you are, I didn't call to talk about me and my day.'

At that moment I knew. It was in that split second, I realised he was special. All it takes is one moment - one seemingly insignificant sentence, or gesture and you KNOW.

Then I let myself fall in love with him. That also is crucial - that you are ready in your life, to love someone else. Sometimes, we think we are ready, but we're not. Plus, sometimes we have our own baggage we need to address, before we can allow ourselves to love someone else. Because falling love is a scary old business - it makes you vulnerable. At that point, you have something to lose and those who have had their hearts trampled on in the past, it is doubly hard to let yourself trust again. But if it feels right, it isn't scary. It is only when it is bad love, do we feel anxious and fretful - because that is our intuition telling us it isn't right. Danger ahead!

I listened to my gut. I let go of all my fears and did it anyway. He moved in 3 months later. A while later I found a diary entry with a list of all the qualities my ideal man would have. It also said where he'd live and what job he'd do and a load of superficial stuff about what books he'd read and movies he'd watch etc. What a load of crap! The first thing that any single woman should do, is take that tick list for her ideal man and burn it! Because no one ever fits a specific list. And when you find him, the elusive 'one' (and for the record I believe in life there are many 'ones' along the way that you could meet, not just one) there are things you'll have wished for and others that you never imagined, and are even better.

Then one day, you'll wake up and discover you've been married for 10 years. Then someone will congratulate you and ask how you knew he was the one, and you'll find yourself saying, 'I just knew.....'

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Room 101 - first thing in there? #Kids' Parties.

Cast your mind back. You are 6, maybe 7. You are carefully scrawling 8 or ten friends' names on a  flimsy 'pack of ten' invitations which you will then hand out to your classmates with a swelling sense of pride. It's your birthday and my god, you're gonna party. There will be sandwiches that you'll be forced to eat, lots of crisps and cocktail sausages, followed by some buns and then a home-baked cake that took poor Mum 2 evenings to make and ice. Badly. You'll enjoy one hour of pass the parcel, musical statues and chairs with a bit of blind man's buff or pin the tail on the donkey and then everyone will go home shattered and sweaty with a slice of that cake, glued to a soggy napkin, sugar rushed to the eyeballs. Fabulous. Job done.

Now? Dear god, no mother on earth would be braver than the one that suggested a mere house gathering with a tape deck and balloons for fun! You can't get away with just that. Oh no - you'd better do something BIG and preferably original. Go karting, dodge-balling, archery (YES indeed), some animal man who drapes himself in snakes and chinchillas, mountain scaling, indoor skiing, bowling or some rare form of dance - are all expected.

Invites - email, texts, are followed by the paper kind. I have heard of one party where the kid had a gift list. (* eye raise *). The party is a two hour affair, which will involve some exciting activity, a poor exhausted entertainer (or both) and will be followed by a catered spread fit for a king. The kids naturally won't touch a single cherry tomato or carrot stick (who fecking would when you can stuff your face with crisps??) and will gorge on all things sugary. Then out comes the cake - no wobbly two tier affair with melted icing - nope, this will be made by some cake specialist person and will have a dragon, a castle, turrets, a knight and an army. It will weigh and cost more than your wedding (cake).

Then comes the BANE OF MY LIFE - the fucking goodie bags. Gone are the days of a simple piece of cake and a rubber or pencil as your 'thank you for coming to my party and having a great time at my expense' gift. Now, it is a book, or a toy, or something that usually costs MORE than the gift the kid brought for the birthday boy/girl. Getting 20 of these together is like paying for Christmas.

All of this for your 4 YEAR OLD. They will never even remember the party in years to come, but your bank manager will.

Since when did kids' parties become such 'events?' I mean, who the FUCK started this all? Whoever she is - I want to get that clearly demented (obviously loaded with TOO much time on her hands) mother and well, shout at her. A lot. Because it is an extraordinary expense to pay for your kid, on top of a present, and don't get me started on how much time it takes to plan/arrange -  and at the end of it - what will they say? Well, my son, after said animal man party on his 4th birthday (replete with spiders, a skunk, aforementioned snakes and chinchilla and many lizard things) whispered sadly, 'but Mum, he didn't bring a frog...'

At that point I nearly gave him into care.

It is insane and yet no one stops it. No one is brave enough to make their kid the laughing stock of the class by simply having a party where the kids eat some buns and pretend to be statues. We all moan about it and yet we feel powerless. It is like all the hen night rubbish that goes on these days - who thinks it is fine to ask your mates to cough up for a week in Ibiza just because you've found the love of your life, eh? INSANITY. What happened to a few swallies down the pub the night before the big day??

Now we all know I am one for a party and I like merriment as much as the next person. But something has got to give. Will it be me? Of course not. Sproglette is having her first party in Dec for her 4th, replete with a dance instructor type to exhaust the beasts, an all singing all dancing cake and I must get started on sourcing a rare unique toy (26 of them) on ebay for the party bags.....


Saturday, 11 October 2014

At last

Ahhhhh at last. Autumn is here. Crisp cold-ish days with a sun splitting the sky, a slight nip in the air as we all crunch through the multi-coloured leaves.

I trudge up the seemingly vertical hill to school every day and smile as I negotiate my way through a snicket that smells of pine and damp. The sprogs chatter and we repeat Sproglet's spellings, Sproglette repeats her own thoughts of the day - relentlessly until we stop and pay attention her every word. For such a small person, she sure does pack in a lot of personality.

The Halloween decorations call me from the attic, and with no shame I can tell you that one of the highlights of my week was finding that Sainsburies hadn't run out of giant spider decorations after all. The celebrations are just 3 weeks away and yes, we are counting the days. This is always my favourite time of year - when the jumpers come out, the clocks go back, it is ok to say 'no' to any invitation that involves more than a twenty minutes taxi ride. The box sets come out (Husband has broken the cardinal rule and gone ahead on Game of Thrones, leaving me languishing in series 2) and the heating goes on. All the pent up angsty weather of summer - the humidity followed by thunder storms and punishing sunshine - has gone. It's the glory days before the frosts of winter descend and the isolation that snow brings in it's flurried wake.

It has been a fabulous week, for many reasons - not that it brought anything definitive for me, more that it brought hope -  bucket loads of the stuff. There was the Bake Off final replete with pizza, a buddy getting a spanking new job, an offer to read an old Parenthood script from someone amazing, cake and coffee with my family just because it was Friday, our decrepit old hall being FINALLY painted (we have only lived here 6 years....) and a good friend sticking his neck out and recommending me to his boss - which was possibly the best bit of all. When people go out of their way for you, champion you - there really is nothing better. It is the ultimate kindness isn't it? There are days I wish I was rich - not to buy myself diamonds and designer clobber - but because I'd like to take all the people who have helped me along the way, to a damn fine dinner and many many cocktails. Maybe one day I'll be able to do this.

Now I have to kind of put my money where my mouth is and actually see if I can write after all. To say I'm terrified is an understatement. Having worked for so long with some incredibly talented folk, there is the fear - but can I do this myself? Hell, I'll die trying.

Yesterday as I walked down the hill from school in the morning sunshine, I realised that my entire career has been peaks and troughs: the highs of being offered a presenting job on Trouble TV, or my own live show on UTV in Ireland, the lows of scrabbling around for money working in a book store and having to be a waitress at the hellhole that was Momos restaurant. There have been so many moments where I thought 'This is it! I'm here - arrived. I don't need to worry any more,' only to wind up hating the job, or the show getting cancelled or the director being satanic or whatever. The lesson I should have learnt is that it is all just one big journey - a marathon rather than a sprint and you ultimately never 'arrive.'

The other lesson I learned, is one that I should have cottoned on to years ago. When a prescription you are on says 'DO NOT DRINK' maybe pay heed. Because otherwise, two nice glasses of red later, you'll spent a night violently vomming in a most undignified manner. And before you ask, there is a dignified way to vom. I've mastered that art years ago.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Things I have learnt this week part #167

No 1. It is absolutely ok to be obsessed with Sia's amazing Chandelier song and video and watch it at least 6 times. Daily. 

If there was ever a song that in captured my entire 20s - this is it. I met her waaaay back in 2000 when I was presenting a kids' show. She kept swearing and we were recording 'as live' so we had to keep starting over again. The producers were screaming in our earpieces and she could hear - which was mortifying. She was lovely, bonkers and loud. Have no idea who she reminds me of...

No. 2 If you don't ask you don't get.

This week Babble were about to cut my pay in half and I had a small fit. I need that income goddammit!! I worried, felt sick and then decided - speak up, what have you got to lose? It worked. Normal service was resumed and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Mind you, I feel like the rug could be pulled at any given moment. Such is a freelance life...

No. 3 Waiting for a movie you are excited to see to open, is an underrated joy.

Tonight - Gone Girl. Now, I wasn't that jazzed on the book (disliked both main characters so was hard to empathise) but in Fincher's hands this could be a masterpiece. Can-not-wait. I have that friday feeling. Which, as any parent will tell you - ceases to exist the moment you have kids. Weekends are no longer your friends people - they are just 48 hours to entertain small people who piss their pants, demand the world and never thank you anyway.

No. 4 The best advice is: this too shall pass.

At the weekend, my hormones dragged me to a bleak dark place and I just felt utterly overwhelmed and completely numb. Could not see the wood for the huge dark twisty angst trees. Both people I reached out to simply told me to stay in that moment, let it be, acknowledge how I was feeling - and then let it pass. Thank gawd it did. Feeling sane is really quite fabulous. Well, as sane as I get.

No. 5 Patience is a virtue I have yet to master.

Waiting for people to read your script, or let you do a trial or all that jazz takes time. Which is fine - everyone has jobs and lives and is uber busy. But when you are at home staring at a clock - you lose all sense of reason. You think why aren't they calling me? Oh god they hate it. They hate me. They think I can't do it. I can't do it! Who am I trying to kid? I should never have left my job. I should have been a nun. Or a lawyer. Or something. Should I? I'll just eat some more cake and think on it.
Being in my head is EXHAUSTING.

No. 6 Getting a DM tweet can be thrilling.

Especially when it is from your fav ever writer/showrunner in the States.  Oh yes. *GIDDY*

No. 7 Children are sent to test us - but that is why god invented alcohol.

All this SoberOctober business - clearly for people who do not have children. Every night I think, I won't drink, I am busy, I'll do some writing or tidy out that cupboard or whatever. Then I spend an hour making a fab thai dinner and my kids spit it out and demand cherrios instead. Then comes bath time and a floor wetter than the basement of the Titanic. Followed by several meltdowns, a tantrum (that's me) and bedrooms that a twister seems to have visited. I reach for that bottle of red and think, 'there there, it'll all be fine.' And usually after glass 3, it is.

No. 8 That sometimes, when you least expect it, the answer arrives.

So Sproglette's favourite hobby, (apart from talking) is to put items in the narrow spaces between the floorboard in our house or decking outside. It's a special trick indeed, to magpie like, light upon all kinds of shiny objects - necklaces, wedding rings, coins etc - and put them in places where we can never get them back. Two weeks ago was a tiny little nut, inconsequential except it holds her entire tricycle seat together and without it - no bike. I tried everything to retrieve the little nut winking up at me between the decking boards - to no avail. I filed replacing said nut on the 'must get around to doing at some stage of life, no doubt when kid is 18' list of to-dos.

Then, as I walked to school on Wed to collect the kids, I indulged my inner child and crunched through the leaves. No one was around, so I kicked and stamped and had an ace time. (I don't get out much readers...) Suddenly I looked down and there, in the gutter, glinting in the sun, was a tiny silver nut. I pocketed it, thinking 'maybe....' I came home and went outside to the garden, where I lifted the seat, the screw and voila! Like a modern Cinderella, the nut fitted. In this tiny moment, I realised that Paulo Coelho may indeed be right... That the universe does indeed provide after all.

Shame it wasn't a winning lottery ticket, mind.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Peter Berg broke his promise...

Over the years in my chequered career (barmaid, reporter, news reader, kids' TV presenter, script editor, writer) I've done some bizarre things to get folks' attention. Not I might add, in some weirdo way - like those deluded folks who charge the stage at X factor auditions, convinced they can sing and perform like Queen Bey, only to unleash a sound like a strangled Banshee and gyrate like my Dad on a wedding dance floor.

No, I mean the lengths I've gone to, to get my CV on the right desk, or (in my presenting days) my showreel on the producer's list. (Oh and quell your dirty mind - I don't mean any casting couch shenanigans either - no one ever tried any of that. Which is good. I think. Or maybe I had the face for radio after all...).

Anyway, no matter the showreels stuffed in boxes of muffins hand delivered, or the CV attached to a helium balloon, or the time I attended a Q & A and doorstepped the speaker afterwards, CV in hand - nothing has come close to my determined efforts to get a Parenthood spec script into the hands of Peter 'FNL' Berg, to pass on to his buddy and Parenthood Showrunner, Jason Katims. The whole thing was planned with military precision. I'm not a gal to do things by halves. I knew that his film Battleship would, at some stage, be doing the promotional rounds. So, my Parenthood script was written, re-drafted, polished and ready by the time his plane hit Heathrow. But how to get near a Hollywood god, when I am but a lowly writer?? If in doubt - ask your mates for help. My theory in life has always been, that if you don't ask, you can't possibly ever get. So old buddy Max, head of a news showbiz desk, agreed to let me slip on my reporter shoes once again, and cover the junket.

Junkets are always great - lots of pastries, and pasty looking journos scuttling around, occasional freebies (NB the worse the film, the more freebies one tends to get) and as much still or sparkling water as you can shake a stick at. I did have to sit through Battleship - which was perhaps the toughest part of the challenge - but it was all worth it, back in March 2012 - when I climbed up the steps to the Manderin Oriental hotel, my questions in my sweaty palm. My script - a PARENTHOOD spec, on a USB stick in my pocket.

Another bonus of this quest, was the mere fact that as well as interviewing Mr Berg - I'd also have to interview the star of the movie - one Mr Taylor Kitsch. What a bind eh? 15 minutes with Tim Riggins himself, where after a cursory question or two about the movie, we settled down to a great chat about the merits of Friday Night Lights: the great writers, wonderful direction, on set gossip, etc etc. I did get a bit carried away and tried to coerce him into a rousing 'Clear Eyes, Full Hearts....' but he laughed and let me finish it all by myself...

*Sighs at the memory*

Where was I? Oh yes. I was escorted by terribly serious looking people in black suits, with Madonna-esque headphones around the hotel - from one incredibly hot light-filled room to another. They would open a door to the dazzling Brooklyn Decker and her amazing pins and then send me back to the journo hub, for yet some more mineral water. After a wait of a mere 4 hours, they said, 'Please come this way to meet Peter Berg.'

With a deep breath, I entered the room and shook his hand. He looked tired, thin and seemed slightly delirious. (After about 100 interviews that day, I'm not surprised). We did the obligatory Battleship chat before I launched into my un-ending praise of FNL. I told him how I loved the writing: Kerry Ehrin (New York, New York and After the Fall, Texas Whatever) and David Hudgins (Hello, Goodbye) and of course Jason Katims (Always) being my favourites. At this point it could have gone either way: Berg happy to talk shop on another project or keen as mustard to get back to all things Battleship. Thank Gawd he was impressed, (delighted even) to talk about something other than 'what made you think of creating a film from a board game' chat; saying 'she knows her stuff,' - especially when I noted he had only directed 2 eps (the pilot and the first ep season 4 in case you are interested).

As the interview was being wound to a close (which is nice speak for a PR making signs of my throat being cut behind Berg's back and tapping her watch furiously) I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. I said how lovely it was to meet him and then held onto his hand a moment too long. I asked him a favour, then carefully gave him my USB stick, explaining that I was massive fan of Parenthood, that I'd written a spec script (mid season 2 - just stopped the DVD and then wrote the next ep) and would he be so kind to pass it on to show runner Mr Katims. He smiled, impressed (again - yay!) with my chutzpah and agreed to do so. I made him promise. He did. I stopped short at the whole pinky swear thing, just.

Then I stepped out into the unseasonably warm March evening with a massive grin on my face. Mission accomplished. As I trained it home, collected my children from helpful friends and bathed them, I imagined Berg jetting home and finding the little USB stick in his inside jacket pocket, many moons later and remembering our chat. I'd stuck my name and details on it - for fear he would just bin it. I let the universe take my hope and crossed my fingers a mysterious email would pop up in my in box one day.

It never did. Peter Berg, you broke your promise!

Meanwhile I heard from an American friend that Katims would have never read it anyway - in the US they refuse to look at specs on their own shows - for fear of lawsuits decreeing plagiarism if a similar idea was ever aired.

But would I do it all again if I had the chance? Absolutely. Because asides from the bonus of getting to talk with Berg (and did I mention I met Kitsch?) the whole thing gave me something that as a new mother of two, I desperately needed: hope. Hope that I'd somehow get to write for TV shows, hope that all my experience as a script ed on UK dramas wouldn't go to waste. Hope that the little USB with my Parenthood ep is stuck in Berg's jacket pocket, or in a drawer in his office, that he will discover one day. You never know...

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dotty Apple - for the person who has everything

So whaddaya get the person who has everything? Me - I will never be unhappy with any premium bourbon, good red wine, stationary and Jo Malone candles, book or Zara vouchers - thankyouverymuch.  In fact I'm pretty easy to buy for. But many folk are not. Men for example. After the obligatory smellies or a decent book, what do you get them? Socks??? Some technology stuff? Something to put all those coins and little bits of paper that they leave lying around on every available surface?

Plus, we all have that friend who has everything - or uber expensive taste that your budget doesn't quite extend to (Tiffany earrings a tad outta your pay cheque range). Now my buddy, she likes the finer things in life - but is down to earth, so I could have gone for some M & S salty snacks and she would have been happy. (She likes the salty snacks does Big T).

Anyway, as luck would have it a lovely lady got in touch with me from a fab website called Dotty Apple. She makes canvases and framed prints of lots of lovely words - that you would use to describe someone, or all the things in life they love. Or their birth date/weight/place etc for a newborn. Or a unique wedding gift... All completely personalised and in whatever format or colours you want. Have a look here to see. Or take a look at Big T's above. (I hasten to add that my daughter Sproglette christened her Big T on account of having a buddy at nursery who is 'little T.' The size here is on account of age, not stature or weight).

Most of my friendships involve plenty of banter and taking the piss. Therefore Big T was never gonna get a framed print of all her fabulous qualities - rather, I'd draw attention to the fact she compared herself once to a Rodin sculpture, admitted that she had 'completely fallen in love with the theatre' (again) and the fact she is useless at internet dating.

Naturally she loved it. The colours, the sentiment, the beautiful frame. So thanks to the fabulous Dotty Apple. Now, when you're thinking of what to get the person who has everything for Xmas, get them something personal, unique and that reminds them what an ejit they are! You're welcome!

Saturday, 27 September 2014


“He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.” 
― Pablo Neruda