Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Quick vent

Ok people, I'm just gonna get this one off my sizeable chest.

The summer hols are fucking tough enough. They are relentless and feel a LOT more than 6 weeks as we try and entertain our kids without spunking ££££ every day on activities. So when we make plans to meet, to entertain the kids in some way and it gets cancelled - I get grumpy.

Now I'm totally cool with the fact that kids get sick and can't make it. That I understand. No one wants to hang out with a kid crapping their pants every six seconds or vomming up lunch. I also understand when your car tyre is flat, or you are stuck at work or you 'mixed up' your dates or whatever... But when this happens several times I begin to wonder - do you simply not give a shit and take me for granted???

When it comes to summer hols I am over it like a dog on it's dinner. I plan the whole time with meticulous precision so my kids don't get overly bored and we get around to seeing everyone we love. It is a busy time of year and folk are often away and so filling the days isn't always easy/possible.  My daughter especially gets uber excited when I have made plans to see folk that have kids her age. She talks about it for days on end leading up to the event. So when it gets cancelled, not only do I have to find something else to do, but she gets upset. Meanwhile, I've got in lunch or dinner or whatever, and have to use up the extra food in some way before we ourselves head off on vacation.

Since when did people stop caring and become all about ME? That is fine to cancel the night before or the day of plans? Because hey, CM won't care and she'll have me round/I can have her over another time. I get that life throws spanner in the works - I make allowances all the time. But sometimes I think folk just don't really think through what affects changing plans has.

Well I'm done. Sorry/Not sorry. I'm a pretty damn loyal friend who goes out of her way for folk - and hopefully is a generous host and someone who wants to help people out. But after a while I stand back and go, am I a fecking Mug?? Why make all the effort when those around make none.

So from now on, I'm cutting out the dead wood. If you let me down don't expect me to waiting in the wings next time you need a favour. I'll be washing my hair. 

Monday, 10 August 2015


Last night I took one of those stupid tests on Facebook that people randomly post. It showed just how stressed you are are. My % a mere 70. Meaning I guess that 2/3 of me is wildly stressed. At all times. This chimed with something a friend said to me the other week at dinner. He said that I love stress and will always find something to stress about. This both shocked and unnerved me for several reasons.

Firstly it is always hard to take a long cold look at yourself and see what everyone else appears to and you do not. Secondly, I am certain now that I suffer from anxiety and that the 'stress' I produce is my way of coping with my life. My need for control, my endless angst over the smallest things. Do you honestly think this is how I WANT to be? That someone wants to live in a state of constant anxiety and fretting?

Years ago I worked on some short films about teenage charities - who were all trying to win SKY's 'Make it Big' funding of one million pounds. While filming one day in Herefordshire, I was seated in a bar chatting with a psychologist. He went for a cigarette and when he returned I was speaking to my (then) boyfriend on the phone, asking that the flat be tidy when I returned home. As I chatted, I unwittingly ordered this guys notebooks etc into a neat pile. When I got off the phone he asked me, 'is order important to you?' He gestured to his tidy pile of belongings on the table, then noted my need for a tidy flat. Within minutes he deduced that my chaotic upbringing had made me an extremely anxious child - someone who needs order at all times, to maintain some control over a life that I had (at one point) felt I had no control over.

I grew up in permanent fear that like my Father, my mother would leave me. I shared a room with her until I was 10 and most nights would wake from nightmares and ask her the time. I have a distinct memory of asking my Mother the time over and over again - simply to check that she was still there.

As I aged, I constantly feared that I would be moved - my parents would re-marry and I would be expected to join a new family. Oddly when this happened, I was delighted. It was only when it broke down did the true anxiety begin. My separated families all refused to speak; they would fight over me and about me. I spent years quelling angry parents and trying to placate them all, just to get by. I had 3 sets of keys, and lived with my Mum's ex partner at weekends. I always carried a bag and moved from house to house from the age of 14.

To say it was stressful is an understatement.

Often I try and psychoanalysis myself - work out why I have stress in my life and what makes me anxious. Why am I always afraid? What of?

Have you ever sat around around a table with your oldest friends and wondered if they still like you? Have you ever expected every person you love to leave - so you almost goad them into doing so, just to prove your twisted hypothesis correct? Have you chosen careers in the most rejecting and competitive industries - when in reality you don't feel confident enough to succeed in them yet you are compelled to try?

Then don't judge me. I'm far from perfect. I wish to god I didn't feel as stressed as I do and that I could manage it better. Often I do. But for the majority of my life I've lived hand to mouth. I've picked incredibly unstable but deeply rewarding career paths. I always worry about how to pay my mortgage and bills - I don't have wealthy parents who will bail me out, there isn't an inheritance waiting to save me from all my financial stresses. Yet I won't compromise. I won't give up dreams just to get by. I believe life is for living - and that you should do what you love - that it isn't about the money. And yet, everything costs. Particularly having a family - so this anxiety is one about me wanting to provide and at the same time wanting to be true to myself.

Added to that, I'm not a secure person. I'm not someone who has oceans of confidence and the ability to believe in themselves at all costs. I know people like this; I have a cousin who I've always admired for his ability to sail through life, seemingly unhindered by negative thoughts or worry. Who gets on with things and they always work out. He is uncluttered by the angst that clouds my life, the fears that fog my brain. I don't have that faith in myself. Often I have felt there is a void in me, a blackness that cannot be filled. I once asked my Husband jokingly 'love me more,' and he replied, 'it would never be enough.'

If you think this is easy to write - it isn't. Often those who are the most gregarious, the loudest, the most fun are actually the shyest, the most introvert, the most scared. I'd say my personality masks all the fears that bubble below. The stomach churning angst that accompanies most of my steps. Of course, there are times when I do relax. Mainly with my children. With my oldest girlfriends, who make me feel secure and loved. With those who understand my insanity and who love me in spite of it. They are the truly brave because I'm not an easy package to take on.

I think, as I type at 5:25am, after a sleepless night, that I'm going to look into some cognitive therapies. A way out of this mire. A way to worry less: that I won't get another writing job, that I'll fail, that I was always doomed to fail, that I'm not talented, that I'm not as good a mother as everyone else, that I have somehow fucked up my life, that my Husband will leave.

One of these days I'm not going to worry at all. I'm going to just be.... Just like you.

Friday, 17 July 2015

The new normal

Years ago I explained to a friend that my Husband and I didn't even shop for food together, due to the fact he worked crazy hours running bars and was never home. That if we ever got to do a dash round Sainsburies together, it was almost an exotic event - picking out some cheese. She looked at me wide eyed and said, 'Most people just take that for granted, but you don't even get to do the mundane stuff together.'

It was true. Every night, I ate alone, or caught up with friends. Sundays were sacred days - days when we actually spent some time together, usually watching a double movie bill or lazing with starbucks and papers. Festive events, birthdays, New Years Eves - he would work, helping others to celebrate and get hammered, while I made plans with our him. I never realised just how hard it is, to be married to someone who's night is your day and day is your night.

With children, the loneliness became more acute. I couldn't just pop out to see friends, catch a movie or sink cocktails with colleagues. For a long long time, life was difficult. I envied those who could make weekend plans; had a lump in my throat when I saw happy families sitting down to brunch, felt an all consuming rage towards my other half, for somehow deserting me. I had signed up to parenthood - but not as a single parent. I distinctly remember watching the clock on a Sunday, every second hating him that little bit more, as the small hand edged towards the one. Meanwhile, I'd been up with a toddler since 6 am. 7 hours later, living in a new town knowing no one, with a small child to entertain, I was fuming...

But life is a world away from that now. Everything has changed. Both for Husband and his job, and my work too. I don't think I have ever been in a happier place. Is a weird sentence to write - I feel some bizarre sense of guilt at admitting this. Lord knows why. I've worked bloody hard to be at the place I am now... Anyway, getting paid to write means I don't have as much time, or in fact inclination, to blog. I don't have gut churning angst to pour out, anger to spill, torment to share. I feel so lucky all the time. Thanks to my kids' godfather, my Husband has a whole new life - one in which he manages my son's under 9s cricket team, assists the football coach and even plays cricket himself. (Then hobbles around like an old man, virtually in need of a stick). He goes to the gym, he has time to watch endless Seinfeld re-runs, he makes sure I get time to write. Every chore around the house is spilt 50 - 50. (I still think laundry counts as much more than the bins being brought in - but hey, I won't nit pick).

FINALLY, I am getting the opportunities to have the career I have long wanted - perhaps even longer than I ever admitted to myself. I'll never feel like I'm there fully (9 years as a freelance presenter taught me the minute you rest on your laurels, see that rug you be walking on? It be pulled from under your feet...). But I am so grateful to have the chances. I'm hoping that it fits in with being a Mother. In having more time for my kids, they are so much happier and I feel so much less stressed. I think for many years I felt incredibly insecure in my abilities as a Mother - mainly because I worked so much, and never felt I was there enough. Plus, in lots of ways I didn't want to be - because I did struggle so much with the loneliness and relentlessness of it all.

But now, aged 9 and 4.5 - it is the best thing ever to hang out with them. Who is more excited about the Minion movie this weekend - them or me? Don't get me started on Inside Out - we are counting the days...

Yesterday as I walked to school with Sproglette, I realised that this is how other people must live: working, raising kids, doing the whole schebang together... But I never had that. Plus, in the last 4 years, due to loss of jobs, leaving jobs, having a second child, paying for child care etc etc - I've been asking the church mice for a loan. As my daughter begins full time school in September, we possibly, (hopefully?) are out of the woods.

Last weekend was the best I'd had this year. The sun shone, I took my kids to Greenwich and a friend's birthday party. I was already hungover from a Mums' drinks with a hilarious bunch of women who just happen to have kids the same class. (It was a balmy evening and we sat outside a bar sipping martinis and prosecco, until the bar literally ran out). Then on Sunday, warm rain descended and with soaking wet feet and a newly purchased umbrella I arrived to hear Judy Blume talk about her new book and all her old ones... The teenager inside me danced with joy to hear her talk about Forever. Judy made me not scared to lose my virginity, not afraid to worry about my skateboard boobs, and not ashamed to will my first period to make an appearance. (How in god's name did I ever WANT a period?). Anyway it was fab.

Now school is out this week for summer. I've scripts to write, articles to post, cases to pack. Team CM is on the move for most of August, bar a few days here and there. I'm taking Sproglet to see Jaws at an outdoor cinema. The last time I saw it on the big screen I was 8. It's his fav movie and he can't wait bless him. I can honestly say I'm pretty damn excited about summer and catching up with all those I love. It's always scary to admit any kind of happiness - it's like God is just waiting for that, to then throw a massive curveball your way. Is it just a British thing that we can't relax when things are going good, so worried that the bad is on it's way?

Well, who knows what is around the corner. So while I'm now in this new normal phase, somewhere it has taken me a LONG time to get to, I'll just be grateful for every moment. Happy summer y'all. I wish you nothing but sun, sand, sea, and simply as many rose wines as you can get down your necks.

See you on the other side.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Golden Years

My neighbours' daughter is back from Uni. She wears the sun kissed glow of freedom that comes when Uni ends and the rest of your life beckons. Having spent three years vaguely studying and hardcore partying (like all students) the time has come to depart the flatshare and venture into the big wide world.

How I envy her.

I've decided that, like Ethan Hawke's character states in the brilliant Before Midnight film, there are only a few years where you are genuinely 'free.' From about 18 until 30 or so, when children enter the equation. I'm calling these: The Golden Years.

Of course, they start of pretty grimly. No money, endless job interviews, endless not getting the job after all moments etc. Mind you at least the buggers today have email. Back in my day (Jaysus how old am I??) it was FAXING. At the local newsagents (I mean who could afford a fax?) paying an ungodly sum to send over a largely fake CV. Then, there was the horror of MISSING a potential job lead phone call - as mobiles, - WHAT mobiles - they didn't exist! So you sat staring at a machine all day, willing it to burst into life.

Stamps. Remember those things? The cost of bloody writing (hand written!!!) letters to potential employers - with your typed, photocopied (more money!) CV and then buying 50 million stamps and saying a silent prayer as you sent them. Then - nothing. No fucker in the world getting back to you. Crushing disappointment as you watched every other friend get a stable job, while you grappled with getting a career in telly. Them all going for fancy lunches while you continued folding jumpers at Gap and getting told off my your hitler-youth boss who complained your jeans wall wasn't 'exact' enough. Then finishing your shift and trekking across London to your 'home' which was crashing on the period stained sofa of a friend in St. Johns. Not St. Johns Wood. No, St. Johns, Lewisham. Eating stale reduced price sandwiches as they were the cheapest thing, or surviving on hummus and pitta bread because after you token rent and travel, Gap's pay didn't go too far...

So not so golden to start off with, I'll grant you. But then - you get the job!! My first full time job was as a reporter/news reader at L!VE tv. I honestly was paid £20K a year to read the news in front of a man (my mate Scott) in a 6 foot bunny costume. (Before you ask, I once I had to get in it myself. It stank).

My first day was out interviewing Marti (obviously with an 'i' he was a pop star back then) Pellow from Wet Wet Wet. I covered the news of an election date being set in 1997. I also produced a rather classy series of 'Topless Darts at the Circus.' I made 20 eps for 2K. It was the kind of place where in rain, we covered the cameras with black bin liners and every PR in London refused to let us into anything. I remember European Business News (who? Exactly - and they still got in)  giving us their passes to a Bond Premiere - so we took the flags off our mics and ran in. A woman strode towards me and I thought - this is it - we're getting slung out. She announced, 'You're first to interview Pierce Brosnan.' Hoo rah! Then she asked,  'How is my good friend John?' Obviously I knew no John. I smiled and lied my way through the entire night, expecting to be ejected at any time.  In my time at L!VE I interviewed everyone from Di Caprio to Kate Moss (she hated me) and watched a human autopsy, dressed a dwarf as a ringmaster and got him to chase women around a disused circus in Great Yarmouth (in November) attended Paris Fashion week and became a ghost hunter. (Yes I believe in them).

When I met with mates for cocktails, their jobs seemed dull in comparison - but they are the ones now with private health care and pensions and all that jazz and me? I have memories of getting drunk with Ollie Reed's best friends and chasing George Clooney across Leicester Square demanding an interview. (He refused. Mind you I wouldn't have wanted to talk about THAT Batman movie either).

Anyway, I digress. Once I'd got that job - which was well paid at the time - off I went head first into the golden years of bad dates, good cocktails and most of my money spunked on having a roaringly good time in bars in Soho. I lived in St. Johns Wood (hurrah - the real one at last!) and West Hampstead with a fab bunch of girls. 2 of them were Tv bookers, so there was rarely an evening were we weren't off to some album launch, gig, festival, etc. Meanwhile the rest of my evenings were spent working - blagging and lying my way into every event and hounding celebs like my life depended on it. How did I have the energy? Most were wankers. There was something wonderful about being despised though. It made every snatched interview or grabbed shots feel like a mini victory.

I left L!VE. Began 'freelancing' as an associate producer. Did everything from a doc on Ollie Reed, to showbiz reporting for The Big Breakfast. Until I got a break and became a kids' Tv presenter in 1999. I don't think I actually ever grew up. My first job began on March 7th 1997. I had my first child in June 2006. I had 9 GOLDEN years. Sure they were fraught with periods of unemployment and many many broke days (I remember us all going for dinner in Camden and eating an apple, because I couldn't afford a meal - I did afford wine though so I had my priorities right). I remember the fear of a mate leaving a flatshare - who would replace her? I remember worrying over affording my £450 a month rent... I often wonder how I ever afforded to go out EVERY night and how I ever made it to work of a morning, when I was in the Met bar when the lights went on (school disco ending style) at 4am.  I remember having many's a broken heart over some idiot or other and being convinced I would marry a rock star and move to Miami.

I didn't obviously.

But I sure had a helluva lot of fun. But the more I think back, the less I envy the girl next door. Because all those years - in many ways - were my search to end up where I am now: having a permanent home, being in a relationship, having a family. And so I must finish this post - I've a shower to jump into and a movie to catch: a family outing to Jurassic World. The more I think about it, those golden years - they're actually a bit more silver. Or now, now is the platinum era for sure.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nostalgia part 1.


Ahhh back in the day, I used to do some fun stuff on telly and the other week I found the DVD.  Christ, I got paid to act like an ejit.

Shame that isn't still the case... 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Internal Debate

So here's the thing - do I move home?

As in, do we pack up lock stock and barrel and move to Northern Ireland - where we can have a sea view, be near family, neck some dark and stormies over good craic and have a 5 bedroomed house with huge garden for the price of our Victorian terrace here?

For so long I always said, 'Nah, we can't go - work keeps me in London' -when I presented, when I script edited. But I've long ago let my ambitions fly out of the window - I don't want things with a burning desire any more - I want the easy path. I don't want to fight and compete and network and all that bullshit. I just want to see a movie or two, hang out with friends, afford some dinners out.

Husband and I used to be all about the fine dining, the Michelin stars, the latest hip place. Now I think it's all such a load of wank. Husband, he who spent years in the food and drinks industry - hates the pomp and posture of half the new restaurants - he thinks they are all just carbon copies of all that has been before. I'm never gonna spunk £400 on a meal for 2 again - when I could put that towards something brilliant for my kids. Life is all about family now - not about being able to brag about getting into some 'exclusive' bar or restaurant, only to feel on edge the whole night, not sure if what you are wearing is right.

I'm over anything pretentious and anything shallow. I just want home comforts and sincere friends. Going home feels easy. There is nothing on earth like a stroll by the sea. The food in Belfast is hearty, healthy fare, the locals chatty, the atmosphere warm. I feel slightly out of place, having lived away from the Isle for so long - 24 years. But lately I have felt the pull, the lure of place.

I have family there - all my family pretty much. I've some good mates - not many - count 'em on one hand - but they are the kind I'd drop everything for. Instead of weekends like this one - where, save for maybe a saturday night dinner with mates - I am alone. There are no 'pop-ins' here. Sure we have friends - but only a handful I see regularly. Writing from home has made me more insular than ever, and I'm not ashamed to admit it has made me lonely at times. I have maybe 3 women (in my small town) who ask me for a coffee out of everyone here I know - and whilst my daughter's class is filled with fab Mums, I don't know any of them in a close way.

I kind of feel like a fish out of water here. I like company, I like chat, I like being surrounded by people and warmth. Here it feels it has to be planned, it has to be carved out in stone weeks before as everyone is so busy busy busy. I find some folk odd - they are friendly one day, cool the next. I miss the Irish way of chatting to everyone - even a lamppost in the hope that it will talk back to you.

We write lists, Husband and I, about what to do. Where to go. Houses in my neck of the woods cost ££££ - I don't have a spare £1.2 million for the next size up of my house. I love my little town: the canal, the sweeping fields where my son plays cricket, the cobbled streets and quirky houses. But I'm also slightly bored of it. I love London being a mere 40 mins away - but I don't visit it very often. Nothing on earth beats Soho in the summer - the sweaty heady potential of the gridded streets, filled with those spilling out of bars. But Fealty's with it's turf underfoot during race week, the Empire with it's gallery, the Merchant hotel with it's architecture - can all give it a run for it's money.

I'm not really sure about lots of things at the mo. I've changed, I know that. I used to care about being at the right places, star bothering, glam nights - all in the 90s and early 2000s. Then I married, then I had kids. My life is a world away from those days. So now it's time to think about the great school my kids could go to (my old alma mater), the big house we could buy, the family support we could have. Yes, it will rain. Daily. Yes I will often wonder why I moved somewhere that I was once  desperate to escape from. But my heart is telling me one thing, my head another. I see how happy my son is at his school - yet I also know that in 2 years he will leave it.

Maybe we will all be leaving here, who knows?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Letting go.

Today my heart feels a little heavy, my step a little weary, my head a bit bleurgh.

All because I sent my 8 3/4 year old off to an evacuee centre, with his little number round his neck and a black cap on his head. He'll be staying there for 2 nights, learning all about what evacuated kids went through during world war 2. He was beyond excited: patiently listening as I packed and re-packed his case, with a tick list ready for him to adhere to when he packs to return; studying his costume in the mirror and fixing his cap at a jaunty angle. Me - not so much. I mean of course I'm delighted that he's heading off on a school trip with all his buddies, and how much he'll learn and grow from the experience - it is just - he has never left me before. EVER. I keep walking past his room and it all feels so quiet. Sproglette is in mourning - but has managed to quell her tears with haribo. What a trooper.

All of a sudden - on the cusp of 9 - he is growing away from me: he now walks to school with his friends, he changes on his own at swimming and no longer shares baths with his sister - preferring to shower alone. It's as it should be - and yet, I feel so redundant at times. Like, I've waited for this moment (to not have to suffer stinky swimming pool changing rooms for example) and yet now that it is here - I am a bit bereft. Bizarre isn't it? Tis so true that they grow up so friction' quickly. I can understand completely why folk squeeze in baby no 3 (NOT that I have any plans in that direction).

We trundled into the school hall and found out which group he was in. We wandered over to... a group of about 10 girls. His face fell. All around the room his buddies stood in other groups. Luckily he had one chum in his group - which seemed ok, until this kid was sent to another one! Sproglet's face fell and I asked the teacher if he had any more boys in my son's group. He read the list and Sproglet looked so gutted - none were his friends. Now he has many buddies - yesterday he wrote a list of 14 he plans to invite to his party - but not one was on the list. His face told the story. I asked if he disappointed and he replied quietly, 'very.' He stood silently and stared ahead. I sighed, my own stomach in knots - not wishing to leave him with his little face so downbeat.  It reminded me of the years at school in sort when I was picked last for the team, or left out of a girlie secret - it is just DEVASTATING. Suddenly the teacher said, "Sproglet why don't you join Mrs XYZ's group over there," and pointed towards a group of boys in the corner. Sproglet BEAMED and ran towards 6 of his friends. I thanked the teacher (I could have hugged him right there and then like a complete weirdo) - I was just so so glad that he had clocked the situation. The next minute Sproglet was in group photos and laughing away, so kissing him goodbye was easy.

For him.

I dashed away from the school, tears in my eyes and a massive lump in my throat. I miss hearing his voice, hearing Sproglette's laughter as he messes about sending her into fits of giggles. He'll be back on Friday, exhausted, with a (no doubt) half packed case filled with dirty clothes. He'll have stories galore and will ask once again to watch Dad's army. But that night, when I get my hug, I'll be squeezing more tightly than usual. While I still can...