Blog

Monologue Mayhem – Part Deux

So I’m trying to write more monologues at the moment for no apparent reason other than the world is tough and it can be hard to commit to something longer. Here’s one, anyway, called Mudslides.

Cassie (mid 20s) is sitting on the sofa with a remote control in her hand.

Cassie:  I got stuck in a mudslide once.  Yeah.  El Salvador.  I turned around and this .. just this wave of shit was cascading down the road. Anyhow – I mean I was wasted – but I did manage to scrabble away and then I lay down and I looked up at this big scab of a sky and I thought …

I’m going to write a blog post about this…

And I did.  It was called ‘Live It’ and it was about the mudslide and how exhilarating and rare these near death moments are.

I mean – I lost a flip flop that day, not my house.  But still – 3257 likes in two days – that says as much about you as it does me. So I kept pumping it out and then I got my first deal –  posing with vegan running shoes, then cork yoga mats, an an organic lip filler.  All in six months. 

And it means that 2 years later I’m now, well I was, the kind of woman who leaves her flat in the morning to go to another house that isn’t mine that has a beautiful bottle green kitchen so that I can pose holding a griddle pan like a newborn, extolling the powers of apple cider vinegar.  Or in down dog explaining the wellness of breath.  I tell nearly 1 million people how to be almost as good as me.

So you’re thinking that’s it then, the mudslide, that’s the moment that changed her, smug get. 

Nope.

The mudslide made me, but it didn’t change me. I was already a smug get.

The moment that changed me came about ten days ago. I’m standing in the garden of the hired house dressed in a white linen smock and I’m talking to the camera.

Talking about tea tree oil.  And how fulfilling it is to grow tea tree plants and then use them to distill your own oil and then to use this oil to tackle cellulite.

Now this, this is when I snapped to.  I could hear myself telling people to grow a plant, a beautiful and complex thing,  in order to destroy it,  in order to rub it on their own arse cheeks, just so that they could be their ‘best selves’ and by best I was definitely implying their thinnest, no question. And all the time the planet was shifting beneath me and there were probably mudslides going on somewhere so I – yeah just like that – I stopped talking and went home and I haven’t been out since.

I’ve got through three series of Law and Order since then.  Hashtag proud.  And the only post I’m interested in getting is the leaflets from pizza places or … no.  That is the only post I’m interested in getting.

There’s 20 seasons of Law and Order to watch.  In yesterday’s tracksuit.   And let’s face it –  no-one’s life is worse for me not telling them about tea tree oil and arse cheeks, is it?

The only is not lonely

Have you seen The Duchess, the new Netflix comedy created by Katherine Ryan? It is very funny and her incredible school-run outfits have inspired me to put on a sparkly headband even though I am still, to all intents and purposes in ‘writing clothes’, or pyjamas to other people.

The show focuses on a single mum with a successful career who is very close to her child. There’s a scene at a body positivity conference where she is being interviewed and is asked ‘where is your child right now?’ and Ryan’s character challenges the question and the implication that single mothers don’t know how to raise their children. In this sense, the show is great at challenging stereotypes around lone parenting – like I said, the mother is fulfilled in her career, has a great support group around her and has a close bond with her daughter. But my smile started to fade a bit when she started talking about her child. The daughter decided that she would like to have sister and suddenly the narrative shifted. ‘She needs a sibling’, cried Katherine, echoing the desperation that a lot of mothers feel around providing their kids with everything they need. But it also suggests that an only child is an abnormality or in want of something. And this pisses me off. Later on in the show, a character is revealed to be an only child and describes himself as ‘smothered’ by his mother, who apparently cuts up his food for him and still kisses him on his lips as an adult. A lot of shows get applauded for their bravery at challenging stereotypes but are still get away at poking fun at a group of humans who a) cant do anything about their situation and b) maybe don’t feel like they are represented accurately at all. And that group is the only child.

In Working Mums, only children are described as ‘aliens’; in Catastrophe, the only child family of Fran, Chris and Jeffrey are cold and distant from one another, in contrast to the jumbled up chaos of Sharon and Rob’s crew. In Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Nathaniel is deemed to be spoilt and lonely because of his only child upbringing. And of course, Friends, which gets its own flack at the moment for a variety of reasons around representation, chooses to ridicule Chandler for being raised a singleton.

And yes, this is personal. After the birth of my son, I always assumed there would be more, but after many years of trying, there wasn’t. And you now what? There were several years where I felt very very sad about this, but now, I don’t. I don’t have family around me, so raising two kids would mean no time for writing outside in the garden listening to some smooth Bossa (as I am now) It would mean sweaty gym kits, after school clubs, shit and noise. I would always be tired. So, no, I’m fine, thanks. I’m not saying your experience of parenting (of two or more) is any better or worse than mine, but please respect the difference. Please stop presenting my kid as a weirdo for a cheap laugh. Stop presenting any kid as a weirdo for something that they can’t change. Go after creepy men or Holocaust deniers instead. It’s a cheap trick and a boring trope.

Perhaps I hold on to these perceived slights in the media because of my experience, granted, but I get enough little digs in real life anyway. Women telling me it’s time ‘to get one with the other one’ in passing, asking whether ‘i’m trying for one at the moment’, describing their own family of two as’ the perfect balance’. I actually feel sorrier for these kids, as they are growing up with ignorant, convention-swallowing dickheads for parents.

It feels very nice to say all this by the way. Thank you if you are still reading.

So please, world and by world I mean the media apparatus that we now experience our lives through, just leave only children alone (ha!) They are not de facto future murderers. They are not any more or less happy than kids with siblings. If you want to produce a truly original show, create it so that the single child experience is a happy and fulfilling one.

Steve Brookstein

This here’s a monologue that I wrote for Up ‘Ere Productions and their Talking Heads Programme. It’s called Steve Brookstein. Have at it, dudes.

Steve Brookstein

Caroline (mid-late 30s, in a relatively formal outfit,  is peering off stage through some long curtains, watching someone out of view with some anxiety.)

(With forced brightness) Oo – now then, hello – I’d rather you didn’t fiddle with the delphiniums (pauses for his response) Well- if they’re looking a bit crispy swivel them round. Okay?

(She returns to the room, the brightness falls. She starts gloomily applying make up. Stops)

They sent a boy over.  From Hull.   Bruce said he’s doing the course, the same one that I did. Doing the course I did, I thought, that’s an odd choice, for a boy from Hull.  ‘We thought you might need some help’ said Bruce and and then he sort of wrinkled his eyes up. ‘This one’s tough for everybody at Restful Souls.’  He said.

He shouldn’t wear that brown leather jacket,  not in this weather. It only enhances his bullishness. I opened my mouth to fire back but then I thought leave it Caroline, when a man wrinkles his eyes up like that he thinks he’s being sensitive and you won’t dissuade him otherwise.

Bruce is very huggy (and it’s too much in brown leather!).   I’m convinced it was him who’d stashed the vintage pic of Linda Lusardi in amongst the coffee filters .  I didn’t know people still did paper porn.  I think it’s a predilection.  And I could tell from the way he called us together afterwards in the staff car park to denounce the objectification of women, that it cut a little too close to home.  The only red face was his.

You know, I can see feelings. I’m an empath.  I empathacise every day.  Maybe that’s why I got the ‘calling.’

If this is a calling.  Can it be a calling if you had to print off your own certificate? 

My sister thought I was absolutely fruitcake.  Caroline, you’re the number three children’s entertainer this side of the county line and a balloon artist of note and you’re going to give it all up? All that time working your way up the google rankings to commit career death? She was fraught that day, off the back of a slew of IKEA runs, but still, too abrupt. 

She’s not an empath. 

(Looks at herself in the mirror. Then she goes back to curtains. Peeks out.)

Pardon? No.  I’m fine.  If you’re at a loose end though, could you defuzz the chair fabric?  What?  (Pause for response) Well, you wrap some cellotape, there’s some in the first aid box, I don’t know why, wrap it around your hand, no, sticky side out and (does the gesture)  lift it off.  Yes, just like that, fantastic.

(She keeps her smile as she returns to us, gives us a knowing look regarding the boy from Hull.  She starts to do some vocal exercises.  Stops.)

The bereaved are terrible at providing detail. ‘She was a good mum’ – could Jerry Seinfield do anything with that?  Unlikely.  No. It’s only when you get to look beyond the digestives that you find the real dirt.  I miss a good home visit. Douglas was a sponge.  He’d be next to me on the sofa – by god he had a knack for this – and he would wait till they were up and at the tea tray and then he’d whisper in my ear ‘There’s hiking boots in the hall’ or ‘Michael Buble –  DVD –   mantlepiece – 2’oclock’ and then we’d start again – ‘was your wife a keen rambler?  A light jazz fan?’ and they’d be off – telling us about the time that she’d passed out on the 3 peaks challenge, or when she’d almost touched Jamie Cullum’s shirt cuff.

 Because think about it: I’m charged with writing the big finish, tying a whole life up in a sparkly gift bow, for a person that I’ve never even met.  The only way I can do it is with specifics, that’s the stuff that pushes them over the edge.   All those mourners – close family, old friends,  members of your amateur dramatic society – are brought together for one day to sweat it out, flop it on the floor and leave it behind for Nadia to sweep up along with the shredded Kleenex.  If they leave in bits, I’ve done my job.

( Through curtains to Boy)

What was that?  (Pause for response) Well if they’re saying they haven’t got the passcode, they’re leaving it a bit late.   Get them to look at their spam. 

(She returns,  starts checking teeth)

You know , I had an email from a woman the other day, asking whether her son would be ‘prepared’ by robots.  Imagine that!  Weird sinewy metal arms cradling your head, washing your ankles, buttoning up your party  shirt.  I told her no, of course not.  It was still Keith and Sheila, fabulous couple, and they did it with the same love and care as before, just with two pairs of latex gloves on rather than one.

2020.  (she shrugs).

 (She pauses thinking about the ceremony ahead,  Her mood has changed)

The first time I stepped out into that empty room was awful.  Awful.  I said the words, but I didn’t ‘give’ them. I should have said ‘sorry Andrea, you didn’t get the best from me today’ but by that time, she’d disappeared behind the curtain and what good is an apology to a box on fire?

Two days later, I’m standing ‘in the wings’ if you like. And Douglas sidles up to me.  He had this way of creeping up so you wouldn’t know he was there until he was practically on you, remarkable, I’ve only ever experienced it before with a black alsation in my local park and a street mime, once, in Bury St Edmunds.   No malice, just a quiet mover.  Anyhow, he’d wiped around the catalfaque, opened up the Zoom room, put the music on.    Ave Maria. You know that they’re not a real music lover if they go for Ave Maria. It says virtually nothing about the person in question.  I imagine them lying in the coffin when that comes on, thinking, why this?  Avoid.  Just my advice.

Anyhow Douglas says to me, how are you feeling?  And I say ‘I feel like …’ and he says ‘Steve Brookstein?’.  And I look at him – because he’s absolutely right.  I feel like Steve Brookstein.  I feel like the man who won the first season of X Factor, bagged himself a number one and then just – fell away..  I feel like a man who had it all, a man who is standing, in that moment of iffy behind the curtains, knowing that he is about to perform with all his slick professionalism to an audience of stragglers on a P & O ferry.

Empathy.  Guilty as charged.

Not that I have anything against Steve Brookstein.  The industry’s very cruel, and he has a terrific voice. But what Douglas said that day was so right and wrong and funny, that it put a rocket up my jacksy.  And I went out and really eulogised.  I mean really eulogised.

After that, Steve Brookstein stuck.  I think we dared not not say it if you know what I mean. Every time, Douglas would be out front, fingering the mousepad with a face like a newsreader, all business, and then he’d turn away and mouth it at me- Steve Brookstein.  Or like this – ‘Steve Brookstein’ (does funny voice/face) .  And it never failed!

(She takes a moment, suddenly upset.)

(Almost to herself, pulling herself together) I’ve got my notes, here. Ready.   But. May be I should just go out there –  just go out, put my  hand on the coffin and sing it. (To the tune of Goldfinger) Steve Brookstein!

She thinks for a moment.

Douglas’ mum wouldn’t get it though, bless her.  And the boy from Hull will probably report me.  The bereaved of course, they want the greatest hits of Douglas – the scout leader,  dutiful son, keen gardener.  Who am I to deny them?

(Trying to be cheery, but struggling)

(One last time.  Hopefully). Steve Brookstein.   Steve Brookstein.  Steve Brookstein.

(She looks crestfallen – it hasn’t shifted her mood.  Ave Maria starts playing. She looks up, rolls her eyes. )

Oh no.  (She starts to laugh)

Onwards.

(She heads out behind the curtain.)

Great, said the people

‘Great’, said the people, ‘shielding is terrible but at least you’ll be sealed in. you’ll be really able to ‘get stuff done’, you’ll be the shutterstock photo of productivity, scribbling away, steaming cup of coffee – no, turmeric tea – to hand. You’ll be wearing glasses, even!’

‘I don’t wear glasses.’

‘No, but in the photo you are,’ said the people, and by people I mean the idealistic voice in my head.

‘But I have a 5 year old to look after’

‘That’ll be great, too!’ said the people. ‘He’ll be acquainting himself with nature, independently making dens in the garden, exploring twigs. You’ll come together for meditation and a wholemeal muffin and he’ll put himself to bed. In the meantime – you’ll finish all the ideas floating around in your head and start new ones – podcasts, plays, poems, prose – you’ll generate all the pees!’

Great. Great.

Need I point out that the idealistic part of my mind was inaccurate in their prediction? I feel little sense of failure – more a battered pride, like a defeated rugby player, as I write this down before you. I did write some monologues and did a couple of fantastic workshops (more later). We did a little bit of home learning most days and on some days we only watched one film, which has become the seal of academic excellence in our house. My son has returned to school thinking that dollars are our national unit of currency from the amount of America he has imbibed, but that will be lost over time.

Childcare aside, I cannot avoid the image of the blank page which has loomed large during lockdown life. The blank white page is what writers have in common (along with crushing self doubt). And of course, the people (the idealistic voice) thinks that a blank white page is a brilliant bedsheet to doodle, to scrawl, to play on.

Now that my son is back at school, there is finally space to contemplate the blank white page – but there is nothing to fill it with. And now, when I need them most, the people are quiet, watchful, aware of the buzzing and droning of a million tiny other voices gaining momentum on my feeling of potential and positivity, ready to cut it off at the the legs. I walk away, think, and by think I mean watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for a bit.

Problem is that there’s been no stimulus for the LONGEST TIME. As a shielder, I’ve missed tuning into the overheard dialogue of the outside world; the initimate breathless chat of 2 joggers, the abrupt tone of an old man on a mobile phone that he doesn’t trust, the odd triangulated conversation outside the Pound Bakery. Not the stuff that’s already been turned into a line for an actor to say but the raw stuff, the fucking ridiculous things we say, I say, every day. I miss human contact as well of course – I’m not a psychopath – but I really miss the source material provided by being outside.

As one door closes, another one etc etc. I’ve been fortunate to have regular work coming in and I’ve taken proper advantage of the online goodies offered by great writers in the form of online workshops. A session with Jenn Ashworth organised by Arvon reminded me that, yes, now is weird, and yes, lowering one’s own expectations is also good. Also, as a substitute to those snatches of overheard dialogue, go on to messageboards for inspiration. Replace your ears with your eyes and trawl Reddit or Mumsnet for character ideas. You’ll miss the nuances of accent and emphasis, but you’ll have a pool of anecdotal inspiration as big as the universe.

From Anna Jordan’s fantastic workshop with Without a Paddle Theatre, I’ve thought about being a bit less precious about the blank page. It doesn’t have to be neat, it’s not a Personal Record of Achievement (Remember those, anyone?). It’s a living document, so fill it with notes, lists, automatic writing. It doesn’t have to be a script. As soon as you make a mark on it, you’ve made a mark.

And from a Q and A session with Simon Stephens, hosted by Up ‘Ere productions, I learnt a most reassuring thing. Writing is not just sitting at a desk, being the shutterstock photo. Writing is also thinking, walking around, reading, watching films that are relevant to my WIP or made by a creator that I admire or want to learn about. So even though my life over the past 4 months has been smaller and more compressed in scope, it has not been empty. that being said, I don’t think I can justify watching Minions as part of my research process.

Just. Leaving. This. Here.

Have a listen to this.

Being very lazy, I was kind of hoping someone would do a summary piece of the Hive experience, of developing a play, of being mentored, of sharing my work for the first time.  The opposite of striking while the iron is hot, on this occasion it worked! Mike Heath at the incredible Write for the Stage, Studio Salford interviewed me with Stephen Hornby for the podcast, which was brilliant fun as well as a terrific opportunity to reflect on what I have learnt.  The Greater Manchester Fringe is open again for business – if you have an idea, apply.  If you don’t have an idea, get one, then apply!

 

 

Development week -The Big Read (through)

This post relates to my debut play, Blue Lines, which has won the Hive Award 2019 and will be presented as part of Manchester Fringe.  Have a look here if you want to find out more about it:  

Wadda week.

World Book Day. International Women’s Day.  I got my mooncup in on first go.

It was a week of major wins.

It was also the week of the read through of my play, Blue Lines. The first time that I would hear it outside of my own head, read by other people.  In front of an audience of even more other people.

No wonder I’m still in my pyjamas today.

My play is super personal.  It’s based on my experiences of infertility – of being the woman who ‘is maybe leaving it a little bit late’.  People rarely see the feet pedalling frantically below the surface, do they?  I got sick of saying ‘we’re still trying’, which it would appear was the only acceptable response to enquiries about my lack of baby.  I digress – the play, yes the play – is an encounter between a teacher and student and the relationship that develops between them.  That’s all I’m saying.

Bearing in mind that it’s personal and it’s the first play that I’ve ever written, it’s a lot.  Oddly enough, I had no issue sending the piece off to my mentor, Tim Firth, to read and give me feedback.  He was reading it.  Somewhere else.  not loud enough for me to hear him.

Fate smiled on me though – the actors I worked with were intuitive and sensitive and despite having only a quick read through online the night before, did a great job of capturing the essence of both characters.  I obviously had to sit on my mouth (not a thing I know) to stop myself from interjecting, to ask them to try things out again, and over the course of the hour I produced the kind of fine, clinging sweat that I associate with wearing too many fine layers under an anorak.

But the feedback was what I wanted – it was positive but also constructively helpful, pointing me towards areas of plot and some dialogue that need clarifying, tightening, cutting or enhancing.

 

I just have to do it now.

Trying to sound professional

Just a quick link to a piece that I wrote in preparation for the development reading of my play.  If you’re out and about in Manchester on Tuesday and it’s pissing it down (which let’s face it, is likely) and you want to see some new writing in action, well, you know where to go.  This blog is also interesting because of my appalling grammar, something which only becomes apparent to me after a piece has been published.  Like a bad super-power.  Hum

 

Hope to see you there.  I’ll be the one cringing in the corner.

 

 

BookLearning: Orphans by Dennis Kelly

I can’t help it – I get horribly ‘retired middle-class’ at Christmas.  I buy the Radio Times, listen to the Archers.  I attempt quizzes of the year in newspapers. I invest time and interest in entire episodes of Midsomer Murders.  The patina of glossy adverts for stairlifts and cruise – ships holds my gaze.  I can’t help it, and I love it.

 

So I needed some acid to cut through this muzzy, smuggy love in, and it came in the form of Orphans by Dennis Kelly, which was recommended to me to read for a piece of writing that I’m working on.  It reminded me of one thing and taught me another; firstly – reading plays for pleasure can be exhilarating.  I used to work in the bookshop at the National Theatre – my best ever job in retrospect and one that I only appreciate now, at a sorry distance of nearly twenty years.  I used to read plays all the time – it was encouraged for you to be seen reading plays at the counter, on the shop floor, on your breaks.  People would ask for recommendations and I could be learned and suave and theatrical (life goals, basically).  And I could also swan around backstage and pretend to be in stuff.

 

Now I don’t want to be in stuff anymore, but reading Orphans reminded me that actually reading a play can be more emotionally powerful than seeing it performed, where there’s always the risk that it can be a bit shit or indulgent or forced.  But a well written play plays in my head just as I want it to – and it turns out that I am an incredible director.

 

No, it’s the play.  And this is the thing that reading Orphans made me realise.  I think that playwriting has changed more than other written form, in terms of what is permissible and how it is expressed.  I couldn’t stop reading Orphans, which I am not going to spoil for you because you should just read it.  But, in brief, it’s the story of a brother and sister and her partner and how they deal with something that the brother has done.  Wow, vague, cool.  But you should read it, because it bites.  It really fucking bites.  And I think back to the plays that I read, including the classics, and I think about how ‘unreal’ they seem in comparison.  They’re polished, but they take a lot of craft from the actor to sound truthful a lot of the time.  With Orphans, you feel as if you are experiencing the dilemma with them, the godawful messiness of the situation, which is not to say it is written ‘off the cuff’.  Because when you’ve got through it and are lying in a sweaty fever dream, you’ll realise that each character had an arc, had something to say. It takes a really brilliant writer to put it together so subtly and effortlessly, so that you don’t see his hand in the writing of it until after you’re done.

So my booklearning is this: reading Orphans has taught me to spend longer on my structure and planning and less time ‘perfecting’ the words.  More at the front end, if you like, as much as it pains me.

 

And it’s given me a beautiful New Year’s Resolution: Read. More. Plays.

BookLearning – Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tuesdays are my amazing days, my days when I shoot off the charts of Pinterest-esque productivity in the six child-free hours given to me.  It’s the day when I do yoga! Bake bread!  Tidy house!  Write! Write! Write!  Especially write write write!  At least this is how it plays out in my head , on the other side of my eyelids, just before I wake up.  It never really goes like this.  And especially so today.

 

As we’re approaching the winter solstice, I’m feeling the need to slow down and to genuinely immerse myself in the things that I so often do just to tick off the list (sorry, yoga and meditation – we really need to sort out our relationship in the new year).  And the same goes for writing; sometimes I’ll just write any old thing so that I can stand in front of the invisible gods who sit in judgement of me every day and say “see? I did some writing – I’m a good girl”  Who are these judges? And what’s the prize for my virtue?  What’s on the other side of that velvet curtain? In truth, my writing has been a bit thin recently.  I think that’s largely because I’m using the time to write while not doing enough to give me things to write about.  I need some fuel.  And so I did just that, or as much of that as I could do on a rainy day in Manchester.

 

I sat in the big grey chair  with the yellow throw next to the fire.  I raised the blinds so I could see the garden from where I sat.  And I finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

 

This book came out a few years ago, but I am only just reading it now because I have recently become aware (and subsequently very ashamed) of my blanket attitudes to racism.  I speak from a position of white privilege when I say that I have coasted on the very general, liberal opinion of  ‘all racism is bad’, which is kind of a pass on the issue itself, because if i just assume that general position, then I don’t have to think about it any further.  I’ve already chosen the right answer, so why keep learning?    Of course racism is bad, but I have, and still have very little understanding of the nuances of racism.  So, amongst other things I’m choosing books that can help me to understand, and gain a bit more clarity and insight on issues of race and oppression.  I’m a work in progress on this, so I’m not going to embarrass myself by drawing some nebulous conclusions here.   What I do feel more qualified to speak about is her words – and as a fundamentally selfish person, what did I learn from her writing style? What is my takeaway (to use nasty corporatespeak) for any writing I may get round to in future?

I think Americanah is incredible; it taught me things about the subtleties of racism that I wouldn’t have understood if they were presented to me in an essay or documentary, largely because Adichie’s characters felt real and the experiences that she describes were lived; they had unexpected detail, they contradicted themselves, they didn’t go where i expected them to.  Ifemelu’s inability to communicate with her lover was frustrating and irritating, yet her cojones in other situations was inspiring.  The description of the hair salon at the start of the novel was specific, unique and real, as was the moment when Ifemelu realises how much she missed the layer of oil on top of her mother’s stew (evocative and truthful).  The writer has incredible instinct and dwells on the ‘scenes’ that you want to know more about; like the hair salon, again, or the atmosphere in the magazine office, back in Nigeria.  I think this takes great confidence – some of these scenes are secondary to the straight surface plot of the novel (although they do reveal further insight into racial stereotyping and the experience of an African woman in America) but we want to see them, hear them – I’d love to know how much of the novel she cut, or whether she knew exactly what she wanted to include from the get go. (does anyone know that, when writing a novel?)   It’s a compelling read, one which covers so many different cultures and societal set ups without feeling didactic or preachy.  It’s bitter, heartfelt, romantic and grim.  It is also sensitively plotted and alive with texture and detail,  ‘takeaways’ (barf) for my next piece of writing, which I will write should I ever take leave of the grey chair next to the fire.

Tell me if THIS is weird

Do you have images from films or books that stick in your head? For years afterwards?  I don’t mean the collective, iconic ‘you’ll find me on the back wall of a Planet Hollywood restaurant’ kind of image – but the weird little private ones, that maybe only you will remember.  One image that I always have lodged in a mind-crevice is that of Danni Minogue tossing a salad from a Smash Hits annual, circa 1992 (this must have been a receptive time for me – I also recall Annie Lennox’s advice to always wear rubber gloves when doing housework from the same edition).  Going back further, I retain ‘up there’ *gestures at brain* a cartoon from a pictorial version of Robin Hood, of a squirrel, dressed in Lincoln Green, holding a log aloft like a muscle man.  I think I was  in love with this squirrel (call me if you’re reading this, k?) Anyone else do this?

 

Just me, then.

 

A less idiosyncratic moment that I come back to again and again is a scene in Network by Sidney Lumet.  Which, if you haven’t seen, you should.  In fact, stop reading this and do it now.  It’s on Netflix.  I’ll wait.

 

Good.

 

So now you know that it’s about an embattled news anchor who loses his shit.  you probably also know the moment that lodges in my head (thought maybe not, if you were looking for squirrels with logs) which is when Peter Finch as Howard Beale the news anchor yells ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’

 

I feel this moment so hard.  Especially today.  For I too am mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and I have demonstrated this in the strongest of ways.

 

Firstly, I whispered ‘Dickhead’ at a car that nearly ran me over.  Secondly, I enquired in a very nice text (which ended with a ‘x’) as to why I hadn’t been paid for some work that I’d done.

 

And these milky reasons make me want to do an even bigger Peter Finch as Howard Beale the new anchor out of the window.  Because I’m mad as hell at myself.

I know – I’m laidback, but I’m laidback for the wrong reasons – not because I’m easygoing – but because I will literally punch myself in the head before I confront a situation with deeds or words.  As a freelancer, I know I need to rep myself much much better than this – but I have, for years, erred on the side of self deprecation.  I do not take myself seriously.  May I add that in the second case, where I’m waiting for payment, that I have had my hours cut without consultation? So I have gone from earning peanuts to earning the bits of peanuts that fall off in the bottom of the bag – and not even that, if the current situation persists.

 

I need another image to put in my head, one that sticks.  I’ve tried Ripley (too tall), Michael Douglas in Falling Down (too aggro), Furiousa from Mad Max (too much and I’m a terrible driver).  I don’t want to be Howard Beale yelling at the world.  I need a better fit and I’m open to suggestions.