Thursday, 11 December 2008

I lost my crown

We shot the ad today. The shoot was literally a ten minute walk from my house which was great as my call was at 7:30 in the morning.

It was pretty much what I expected: shoddy make-up, really shoddy costume, and a 10 hour day to shoot 3 sentences.

Still, they were all very nice people. And the food was unusually good. And they had a great fruit basket.

But the day was far from uneventful: I lost a crown! biting into a particularly dry and hard drumstick. Serves me right for eating candy. Dentist can't see me till tomorrow morning.

But, I am a very lucky girl: 1. I had root canal surgery on that tooth so there are no live nerves and NO PAIN. 2. It is a back molar so you can't see the gap when I speak or smile - otherwise I would have lost the gig! Can't have a toothless phone operator flogging your brand!!

So I shot the whole thing minus one tooth, looking like hell, but in relative comfort. Thank goodness for small mercies...

I got it!

Yes, the call came through and I got the gig. The advert I auditioned for yesterday. We're shooting next Tuesday.

It's going to pay for all my Christmas gifts and travel with a bit left over for the January rent!

On the casting couch

The call came in last night from my agent. "You've got an audition for an advert on December 4th at 11 o'clock." Actually, they didn't call, they now have this snazzy email system with all the details written on it and you just have to reply to the email to say you'll be there.

So I found myself in a rather drafty reception in Soho this morning, waiting my turn. You can tell a lot from the type of production and how much they're likely to pay (my agent never tells me how much until I get the job...) If they're disorganised and running behind schedule, it's not a good sign. They were running 1/2 hour late (not that they told us... we figured it out for ourselves) and committing the cardinal sin of not following the call order that the actors had been given. So it was pandemonium and rising tension. (With some PMT thrown in for good measure - at least on my part!) Oh, they also didn't have enough scripts to go round...

It finally got to my turn, did my thing. They seemed to like me. Thought I had a Southern Irish lilt. Which is news to me as I can't seem to be able to do an Irish accent without sounding Pakistani. But they seemed quite keen! So chances are I'll probably get it... apparently they'll be picking 3 of us.

I guess fingers crossed. The money will probably be so-so. But it's Christmas and it's a job so if I get it, I'll be glad and grateful.

It's so ironic that I spent the last 3 weeks agonising about when my next audition would be and then one comes along and my gratitude is nowhere to be found... That's actors for you. Wingeing and ungrateful bunch that we are. I hope we don't get made redundant by technology before I'm nominated for an Academy Award!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Are we out of control?

Fair enough. I'm the first one to admit it: I'm a bit (ok, a lot) of a control freak. I like things a certain way, I like to be on time for shows and meetings, I like to know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. And I like my routine. Don't worry, I'm getting better all the time... I'm learning. Learning to let go, learning to accept change and surprises as positive things, learning to enjoy new and slightly scary experiences.

Now for a retrospective of 2008 so far. (There's only one month or so left to go. Who know? Maybe it'll be really quiet and uneventful...) What is going on? Working back from today: minister from shadow cabinet is arrested and questionned for 9 hours with no warning (cries of police state! and fascists! from the excitable LibDem and Tories. The more cynical think it might be a parting shot from Sir Ian Blair.), Mumbai is under siege for 3 days and counting, house prices are in free fall, Madonna got divorced, big brand names have disappeared or disappearing: GM, Ford(?), WHSmith, Lehman Bros, MFI, the Americans have elected a black man as president, the pound is not worth much anymore, the Aussies have a quiet genius as prime minister, LORD Mandelson (need I say more)... the world is going to pot. I'm a follower of the conspiracy theory that says it's all because of the Hadron Collider - don't know if it all started when they switched in on or when it imploded but there's definitely a link of some sort. Watch this space.

And to think that in 2006, all we had was Alexander Litvinenko's radioactive sushi in London. And we thought THAT was outrageous! (Incidentally, his family were allowed only recently back into their flat which has finally being decontaminated... that's not going to help them sell it.)
So whether you're a free spirit, or a control freak, the fact is, the world is turning on its head: no one knows what to expect, we're all stuck on the planet for the ride so let's just run with it, and see where it takes us. We are spinning out of control, like a top, perhaps heading to a better place? Or a worse place? Who knows?

What's certain is that it's 33 days till the new year. So give up your diets, trying to stop smoking, Xmas shopping for people you don't even care about, buying the latest this or that. It's all nonsense! Look where it got us. Instead, try something new. Change your job, your hobbies, your routine. Do the opposite of what comes naturally. Ask her out! Ask him out! Dump him! Leave her! Learn how to juggle. Dare to dream.

You'll never know till you try it.

Get it out of your system - all of you! - and we can all go back to normal in 2009.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Going cold turkey.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. It's a big family holiday there. Bigger than Christmas. Ideal for Euro-American couples: no fighting about whose parents you go to at Christmas (there's that excuse out the window...). And like Christmas, the traditional meal consists of turkey with all the trimmings. Oversized turkey (that doesn't fit in conventional European ovens). And cranberry sauce. A real nightmare for vegetarians. Apparently. (The turkey, not the cranberry sauce. Obviously. Although the whole thing's probably an even bigger nightmare for the turkey itself. Except for the one that's pardonned by the President of the United States every year.) Weird. But tasty!

I'm very grateful to all the American families who welcomed me into their homes and families for Thanksgiving those years when I lived in the US on my own. It was nice not to be left out in the cold.

Well, I'm not celebrating Thanksgiving today. I'm having miso soup with seaweed and tofu (don't pan it, it's yummy). But to all the Yanks both at home and abroad, gathered as a family, or on your own: here's a little thought and prayer for you all.


Oh what the hell? Gobble gobble!!!!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Is two really better than one?

You see all sorts on the internet (especially when you're not busy with loads of auditions or doing your taxes). And dismiss most of it instantly. But this headline really caught my eye and my imagination. I think it was an ad on Facebook. I've seen it before, in different guises: the Hollywood diet, the diet of the stars, the diet of the supermodels etc.... It keeps coming up on my page, maybe they've earmarked me as a fatty! Now how would they do that? I don't know. Maybe they can deduce my body mass from the pressure that I put on individual keys on my computer keyboard. Is that paranoid enough for you?

Anyway, this headline was different. It went something like: "How combining 2 diets will help you lose weight twice as fast." And I have to say, that for a moment, I though: EUREKA! Then I thought about it a bit more a realised it was probably a load of twaddle. Then I checked it out. It was a very well crafted piece of hard sell, complete with testimonies urging you to give it a go. All very tempting.

I can't believe that there's enough room left in my consciousness to contemplate this sort of thing when we are apparently flushing ourselves down the deepest financial hole ever, Africa is imploding from massacres and starvation, the environment is on the blink, and welcoming sunny Thailand is on the brink of a military coup! And Christmas is in 29 days.

Time for some comic relief. Of sorts. (Open season on Americans ends Jan 3rd...) The BBC showed some footage from Bangkok airport, quite tellingly interviewing stranded passengers but apparently not the protesters. One of the men being filmed was a middle aged American tourist who was harranging a rather dismayed Thai Airways representative. The following words actually came out of his mouth: "Tomorrow is a big holiday in the US [Note: The holiday in question is Thanksgiving. Europeans don't celebrates it because we don't celebrate ethnic cleansing.] and now loads of people are going to miss it because of your cockaminey little protest over here." Yes, he actually called the public disorder that could lead to the overthrowing of the current Thai governent "cockaminey". Puts the invasion of Iraq in perspective. Thank goodness for Obama.

Have a nice day!

The double diet was Acai Berries and a brand of Green Tea promoted on the Oprah Winfrey show. Now you know.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Is this getting a bit stale?

No audition for the past two weeks and I'm feeling the strain even though I know it's normal: some weeks you get auditions every day, other times you can go for weeks without the phone ringing. And November always turns out to be a rather quiet month for me.

Still, I've been up and about: I was in Paris for a long weekend. It was cooler than Dubai and I didn't have to sell my soul plus I got to eat a lot of home made cakes (there was a family birthday celebration). On the train trip back to London, we heard this old trout saying to some young guy with headphones: "You're not going to have this on the whole trip are you. I simply couldn't bear it!" And he turned the volume down immediately.

Ageing Baby Boomers: 1, Youth: Nil.

After we'd settled into the relative silence of the carriage, I gorged myself on free newspapers and magazines (we had a cheap deal in Leisure Select) but to my dismay somehow failed to complete any of the SUDOKU puzzles or quick crosswords. I wonder if was the onset of cerebral ageing or the effect of too much insulin raging through my veins to mop up my vertiginously high blood sugar levels...

Anyway. I digress.

What I meant to talk about is that as an actor, (I prefer it to "actress", it somehow sounds more serious...) I have a profound aversion to reality TV and talent shows. Rightly or wrongly, I assume that they reduce the amount of money and air time dedicated to drama... and therefore my acting opportunities. So I'm always intrigued and amused when I find the audience spontaneoulsy subverting these shows' format- somehow signalling that they've overrun their course and their welcome in people's living rooms.

It started with "" which encouraged viewers to call the American Idol phone lines and vote for the worst candidate. It carried Sanjaya to something like 7th place in the final 2 years ago. And he was truly an appalling singer poor fellow, especially his hair (it didn't sing but it was appalling too). Now it's the turn of Strictly Come Dancing with John Sergeant defeating all the odds and threatening to plunge the competition into (more) ridicule by winning it! Was he pushed? Did he jump?

At any rate, his peroxide blond Russian partner seemed rather peeved at the press conference. I'd stay away from the sushi if I were him. Especially if it glows in the dark.

So I propose a toast to good quality programming (especially on the BBC!), to the proverbial underdog, a good sense of humour, and romantic travel!

As they say in France: "Chin Chin!"

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It’s all getting a bit puritanical.

I've been watching Sky News and its live broadcasting of the BBC's grilling by the Media Select Committee. Oh the delicious irony! It's a wonderful piece of theatre. Democracy at work - beats watching a public stoning or a hanging. But I can't help thinking that it should be Ross and Brand sitting there squirming, in their silly haircuts, rather than these two dark suited executives. One is drawn and balding and losing his rag. The other grey haired, calmer in appearance, but getting progressively redder in the face. High blood pressure probably. He looks like he might pop like a balloon. But that's unlikely.

Behind them, row upon row of journalists (one woman, unaware that she is on camera, is actually sleeping!) And in front of them, in a squared U shape, the committee itself: some members are soft spoken and apparently supportive (there's nice Scottish middle aged lady who talks common sense), and some are frankly out to get some scalps. Most are talking in my name: "The Public". It's all a bit Spanish Inquisition, minus the Monty Pythons and the funny hats.
What is it all about really? The fact that Ross is paid £6 million a year (at a time when so many people are tightening their belts)? The fact that Brand is a potty mouthed buffoon who attracts a seemingly endless stream of young models to his bed? (How does he do it? I'd like to be a fly on the wall.) The fact that they were crude? That it was in poor taste? That they questioned the virtue of a young woman? That the recipient of the call was an old man? The fact that we all have to pay a license fee which pays for this drivel?

Not sure. But I can't help feeling that it's to do with the strong wind of puritanism blowing over the country. They've been quite a few recent examples of people being hung out to dry over rather insignificant matters (in the scheme of things). It started with the whole Mosley/Nazi party scandal, now Drogba being called into account for throwing a coin (aimed at him) back into the crowd, the Brand/Ross fiasco, the Osborne/Mandelson Russian Yatch scandal... Then there's all the nannying by the State: the smoking ban (I support it but there is something sinister about it), the war against obesity, the attempts to curb excessive drinking, etc... But some obviously don't think it goes far enough: the Editor in Chief of the Daily Mail has accused the Government of hampering his duty to "report deviations from decency and acceptable behaviour."

Who made him Chief Inquisitor? And why isn't he wearing a funny hat?

Where's all this coming from? It used to be the kind of thing that only happened in America. And it used to make us laugh and feel superior, somehow more sophisticated, you know? We were Traditionalist Liberals not Unblushingly Louche (unlike our Continental cousins, The French). We liked a bit of spanking, we had Oscar Wilde (even though we killed him), we liked cross dressing, we'd even accepted our future king's mistress as his second wife.

So what has changed? Is it the painful awakening at the end of 10 years of easy money and prosperity? Is it really the financial crisis that's making excess and deviation from the norm unacceptable? To whom? Us, the Public? Have we been asked our opinion? I certainly wasn't.
So who's dictating this? The tabloids trying to run the country? (I feel like I know Murdoch because I graded his current wife's homework when we were at Yale.)

A friend yesterday - who is in his 60's - joked that "they" were probably planning to bring back the death penalty. We all laughed but rather nervously. It didn't sound quite as far fetched as it should. But what can I do?

I know.

I'll say a little prayer for Baby P.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Me and the dry cleaners

I believe I have the best dry cleaners in East London. He doesn't charge too much (it's cheaper if you don't need the overnight service), he gets the job done beautifully and quickly, and he doesn't mind if you pay him in small change. He's also a warm, urbane and charming man and we have wonderful little philosophical chats whenever I drop-off and pick-up.

In keeping with British etiquette (bearing in mind that he hails from Pakistan and I was raised on the Continent) we still don't know each other's names but I know he's a muslim and he knows I'm an actress and that I own several pairs of Thai trousers (the ones that are open on the sides and wrap around and tie in the front and the back). We talk about all manners of things: the weather, London pollution, fabrics...

Over the last few years, I've learnt all manners of things about the dry cleaning business: the machines make the building very hot and humid so working conditions are worse in the summer time because you can't cool things down by leaving the shop door open. Winter is good for business because when it rains people get the back of their trousers splattered. London pollution (in particular on the tube) leaves a greasy film on clothing which means more frequent dry cleaning. English men's habit of not carrying an umbrella means that they ruin their suit jackets when they get soaked. Apparently it warps the padding and wrecks the shape - especially around the shoulders - and it's pretty much impossible to fix.

Today, we talked about the weather (which has been steadily improving since the horrendous downpours of Monday) and the weather forecast (fair for the next 2 days) and came to the conclusion that an optimistic weather forecast is probably the only bit of the news bulletin that we still believe in. Everything else being the result of spin, propaganda, and bias. I told you, it's philosophical chat, not chit chat.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

So Big and Yet So Small

In these complacent and apathetic times, anyone who has the gift to give hope to millions of people and make them want to stand up and be counted deserves to win the role of leader of the free world.
I'm not sure about "deserves": being the leader of the free world sounds like a pretty fraught position. Especially after 8 years of appalling incompetence and willfullness. Not sure I would wish it on my worse enemy, let alone on someone worthwhile. But there you are. Something historic happened in America last night. In one fell swoop, the country has shown a desire to atone for its past (and more recent) sins - and a desire for a brighter future. I wish him, and his country, well.

But for all this hope and talk of history being made in America, desolation and horror still dominate in other parts of the world. I was watching a segment on television yesterday, showing a hospital ward in India, for children suffering from severe malnutrition brought on by poverty and the rising food prices. A 3 year old little girl who was so tiny that she looked half her age. A little child on a respirator (he wasn't strong enough to breathe on his own) and high vitamin drip who stared unblinking at the presenter and then grabbed her finger in his little fist and squeezed it tight. And another one whose mother explained that her husband was a rickshaw driver who earned the equivalent of £1.20 a day which wasn't enough to feed her family of four. Most of the children will go home once their health improves, but will most likely end up back on the ward as their diet at home takes its toll again. Imagine growing up eating only rice and milk. No iron, no meat. Imagine having your growth stunted for life. Where's the hope in that? Where's the atonement?

I wish President Elect Barack Obama every success, because my future and the future of many others on the planet depend on it.

Just for today, can we dream, can we hope for a brighter future?

Yes we can.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I'm not doing that, it's too cheesy.

They say everyone has their price, and their limit. I still don't know what my price is but I sure can tell you what my limit is. I walked smack into it yesterday evening, at a casting for a cheese commercial, on the outer edges of West London, zone 2.

When I say cheese, what I mean is processed, squeezed out of a tube, comes in 4 flavours including prawn (I know!) kind of "cheese".

Unfortunately, the commercial (and therefore the casting session) called for a fair bit of eating of the product.

I'm proud to be in recovery from eating disorders but there are still a few things that make me unconfortable and downright loopy. Having to gobble processed cheese is one of them. Having to wait my turn for 45 minutes with the growing realisation that I'm going to have to gobble oodles and oodles of the stuff is another.

By the time I walked into the casting room, I was vibrating with anxiety. Almost levitating with stress. We did the idents (name, agent's name, rigth profile, left profile). Then I got briefed by the director (a woman): You (and before you ask, yes, "you" is another 40 something mum) are digging into the the stuff looking like you're being submerged by waves of flavour and delight.

Come again?

But then again, I am an actor. Surely I can adjust to any request from a director? Taking my clothes off, fine. Appearing with no make-up, fine. Looking unattractive and/or fat, fine. But I'm sorry - I draw the line at eating prawn flavoured anything that you have to squeeze out of a tube.

The director gave me last minute directions (prepare the "canapes", eat, enjoy, look delighted etc...) for the first take and said we'd try something else afterwards.

So I took a big breath and then I fudged it. I ended up eating a few bare pretzel sticks instead of the cheese. My throat was so dry I even struggled with those. I didn't make it past the first take.

I should've felt pretty crushed to be so obviously placed in the "reject" pile, but I couldn't wait to get out of room. Having retrieved my coat and brolly, I fairly skipped out of the building, after a minor freak-out when I accidently walked back into the casting room (through another door) instead of the front door.

I walked back to Kensington Olympia tube station (and it was raining pretty hard) and I felt like a freak. That was the worst bit about the whole experience. I felt different from everyone else: somehow not quite right in the head. All the other women had gone in, done their stuff, and come out wiping their fingers and smacking their lips. And I'd gone in and freaked out (technically, I'd gone in freaked out). Over having to eat some squeezy prawn flavoured cheese.

I know it's fantastic material for my next show.

And now I know what my limit is.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

I don't like to chew but I like to swallow...

I discovered something new about myself today. It was such a strong realisation that I actually remember where I was and what I was doing at the time.

I was walking towards the Central Line turnstiles at Liverpool Street Station, biting into a ham baguette sandwich. (If you must know, whole meal, lettuce and tomato, no butter, no cheese). And what I discovered was this: I don't like chewing my food. To those who know me, this will not come as a surprise. I have an unseemly and un-ladylike habit of inhaling my food very very fast. It's not good for the digestion (although presumably it's reducing the wear on my teeth?) and a habit I've had since I was a small child.

This was going through my head as I took a bite out of my baguette sandwich and so I made a conscious effort to chew that particular bite conscienciously. And - the thing is - I didn't enjoy it. I could taste all the different components, textures, tastes. They were all blending in together and mixing and turning into mush.

I hated it.

I didn't like the messy taste and feel in my mouth. It was gross and disgusting. I really had to force myself to swallow.

Why was that? I seem to love food well enough. I have a healthy appetite, I eat EVERYTHING (exceptions: butter/margarine, anything with mayo, anything with any kind of cream (sour, double, single, whipped) Chicken Kiev, Coronation Chicken, Piccalilly sauce, mint sauce, greasy foods, mangostenes, and egg salad.) So how can I not like eating food?

The thing is, I do derive pleasure from ingesting food, but only when swallowing things without too much chewing. It's the swallowing whole that I find so satisfying.

So when it comes to food, I like to swallow, not chew. Is this odd? Am I unique in this? Is this some sort of affliction? Is it mental or physical? Is their a cure or treatment?

You might well ask what I was doing getting on the Central Line with a sandwich in the first place? I was on my way to have tea at Maison Bertaux with one of my very dear drama teachers from East 15. It was 2 o'clock and I'd just come out of yoga so hadn't had a chance to eat my lunch hence the sandwich (from Upper Crust if you must know). At Maison Bertaux (Soho - fantastic characterful French Patisserie), I had mint tea. There was no chewing involved.

Now for an acting note...
This morning I had an audition for a corporate ad (it means it pays very little and no one is going to see it apart from a bunch of middle managers in a board room). The role was described as: "a waitress in a greasy spoon caf in East London who's been doing the job for 8 years."

I wonder if I'll get it...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

It's Freezing!

Winter has officiallly arrived. With snow! Apparently, we haven't had October snow in London since 1934. So it's quite an event. I think we should celebrate with excess and great immaturity - following in the footsteps of BBC broadcasters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.Well maybe not stooping to prank calling but at least indulging in some form of childish lewdness. Maybe mooning. (Is it new moon yet?)

My agent called today and I have an audition tomorrow morning, to play a "rosy cheeked waitress who's been working in the same greesy spoon for the last 8 years and wonders what her life might have been..." So watch this space.

I am typing this wrapped in a tartan wool blanket, trying to keep warm, as I refuse to turn the heating on till after nightfall. I don't know why. It's a rule I've made up. And like all made up rules, there's no rhyme or reason to it, but also no way of breaking it. It's just not allowed. Maybe I'm trying to identify with the "fuel poor" and hoping to benefit from the tax windfall from the energy companies. How much do you get if your lips go purple? And pneumonia?

In preparation for typing up my expenses - foreplay for filling out my tax return - I did a huge clear out and some major filing yesterday. There's now a rather unruly pile of papers next to me, waiting to be processed. It has a rather resentful vibe.

There's also a dreadful, intermittent but recurring clanking noise outside on the street. I'm not too worried as I think it's coming from one of the building sites. Sounds like someone banging poles together. Maybe they're taking down some scaffolding. Let's live in hope.
The noise has stopped. Better get on with my expenses then... I've got a whole hour to kill before yoga class!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I got the part!

Completely forgot to mention that the little part that I auditioned for last week... well I got it! And we shot last Sunday. It's for the new series Law & Order: London, which will be an off-shoot of the US Law & Order. All very exciting!

Why did you film my fat bottom?

I had a bit of a shock on Friday night. More specifically a blow to the Ego from the proverbial blunt instrument.

I was watching (along with all my friends and acquaintances whom I badgered into tuning in) Wire in the Blood. Yes, the one I'm in. And half-way through, there's a scene in which I am more or less naked and walking across the screen. Now, I can blame the lighting, the wide angle lense, the Subway Sandwich diet, the bloated tummy. The thing is: I looked terrible. Fat, wobbly and covered in cellulite.

As the character, it works... but as me, it hurts. What's the point of all that exercise and worrying about what I'm eating if I'm going to look like this!

Then there's the awful realisation that people close to me have been lying "you look great." "Don't be silly, you're not fat!". Or maybe they can't see very well. Or maybe they've been averting their eyes the whole time!

So what am I going to do about it? As an actor, I'm cool with it. That what my character looks like. As an actress, I'm committed never to let myself get caught out again with - as it were - my pants down. As a woman, I'm going to try not to go into overdrive with the dieting and exercise. I know it doesn't last.

So a mixed blessing really. Got my first national telly appearance, in a high profile series but also got exposed as the little fatso who could...

Never mind eh!? J-Lo's made a fortune out of her booty. Besides, there's a quick fix to this: no, not lipo, next time I'm on film, just cover up!!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Do I look good on film?

A perfect stranger told me some lovely things yesterday. And it's not like he was after something. It was the other way around, I was auditioning for an acting job.

I should qualify "perfect stranger". Technically speaking, he was a stranger, as we'd never met before. But he was also a casting director so it wasn't as random as I make it seem.

Yes, I had a casting yesterday morning. For an established TV series. Tiny part in terms of screen time but a really interesting character.

I thought he was the sweetest man in the world. He thought I had a great look and that I looked fabulous on camera. And it was a good audition: he spent a long time with me and made me do it 3 different ways (I mean the scene). And he seemed really happy with me.

I was wearing my lucky shirt (pink and white Anne Fontaine). But I think I can take full credit.
I stepped out of Spotlight's offices with a skip in my step and spent the rest of the day being incredibly productive and pleasant to all around me.

It's a nice feeling. I'm going to try and make it last.

I should hear about the part by the end of the week or early next week.

Hope I get it...

Monday, 20 October 2008

I'm naked on the telly!

Apparently so!

I appear naked in this week's ITV trailer for Wire in the Blood. People have been emailing me about it. I'm assuming this is only shown after the watershed...

I don't know whether it'll give me more coverage. Ha ha ha... What I mean is whether people will be more likely to notice me. The type of people who are in a position to give me other jobs on the telly.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, tune in on Friday Oct 24 and Oct 31 at 9pm on ITV1 and watch Wire in the Blood!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

It's not happening...

I can't believe Madonna and Guy are getting divorced. Or rather, I can't believe that it's actually affecting me. And that I'm writing about it. And that I seem to track the big events in Madonna's life as if they were my own.

I was sitting in the meadow at Mills watching the squirrels (it was lunchtime and I was helping a friend with field work on squirrel behaviour) when I found out she was divorcing Sean Penn. Back in the early 1990's.

For the record, I'm not a celebrity stalker or one of those sad people who hang outside people's homes or stage doors waiting for a glimpse of their idols. I'm not one of those people. One of those who cried hysterically when Princess Diana died, and left flowers and teddy bears at the gates of Kensington Palace. And that's not just because I was living in Australia at the time. I'm just not that kind of person. I'm a relatively well adjusted and intelligent human being with a healthy sense of identity and a LIFE. I don't walk around thinking that I know celebrities simply because they're being paraded in the magazines and on the internet.

But it's Madonna. And I grew up with her. Sort of. I mean I grew up with her songs. And because she is the queen of reinvention, I could identify with each new phase as I worked my way through adolescence in Paris, trying to die my hair blond with "Sun-In" , University, America, peep show dancing (inspired by her video for "Open Your Heart" ), relationships, Australia. (I don't think she's ever lived in Australia.)

But I moved to London first. And I found out about Skibo Castle before she did (although I didn't stay there.)

So we have a common history. Well, me and her music. And so when the news of her divorce flashed around the world yesterday, I went "oh..." and spared a thought for her.
I had my own bit of sad news yesterday. I found out yesterday that I didn't get the part in a sweet little pilot for a show called "Isabelle goes hunting". There's something a bit weird about auditioning for a part that shares your name. But they were lovely people (they actually called me to say I didn't get the part) and hopefully I will work with them on some other project.

So today is a new day.

Heck, if Madonna can perform her show in Boston in front of the press and hundreds of fans, a few hours after the announcement of her divorce, I think I can finish work on my website, go to my yoga class, do a meeting, apply for some new parts, and call the repair man if the fridge doesn't reset itself.

To infinity and beyond!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Shall I call her?

Procrastination is a bad thing. In the end. Like all bad things, it starts off rather prominsingly. Procrastination has seen me sustain prolongued bursts of productivity - house cleaning, nail polishing, grocery shopping... But in the end, when everything is tidied away and spic and span you have to face up to it. It. The thing you've been procrastinating about. Worked your way around. It's left standing in the middle of the living room. All dusty and unpolished. For everyone to see.

So what am I procrastinating about today? I have a phone call to make. I've had the number for 2 weeks. I have to call this nice lady. Well, I suppose she's nice: an equally nice lady gave me her number. Why am I procrastinating? I'm afraid. Of what? Of being rejected, or regarded with suspicion, or worse, seen as a time waster. Is this likely? I don't know. Past experience tells me that it is. What's the upside? Of calling her? YES! It could boost my acting career.

I'm going to go and call her right now!

Well I called. And got the answer phone. Which means I'll have to call again - probably later on this afternoon. Although people don't return calls in the Industry (It's all left to chance. And good old fashion doggedness.) I want to give her the chance to return my call otherwise I might come across as pushy. God forbid!!

I'll keep you posted.

She called me back! Right away too. And she was LOVELY. Turns out she is having lunch today with the other nice lady who introduced me to her (there are no coincidences in the Greater Universe - it all happens for a reason) and they will put their lovely heads together.

Now it's time to file my taxes. I'm on a roll. Try and stop me.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Stop, I wanna get off!

It's a sunny, unseasonably warm October day. A Friday, and late afternoon so the weekend is tentalisingly close. It's quiet. Especially now that the scaffolding people across the street have departed back to whatever demented planet they came from.

There're a couple of pubs on my street (the other one, I live on a corner). And usually by now, you can hear the sound of glasses and conversations drifting up to my windows. But not today. Today is quiet.

Maybe it's the financial crisis. The banking crisis. The credit crunch. The American Elections. The sub-prime debacle.The housing collapse. The global crisis. Or maybe everyone decided to go home early and spend Friday evening all cosied up with the Missus and the kids, around a home cooked meal (vegetarian) before settling "en famille" to watch a family movie. Like Madonna and Guy. Maybe?

Just as I seem to be growing calmer and more serene (a couple of hours at a time) thanks to yoga and witht the Greater Universe as my guide, the world appears to be going to pot. It's spinning faster and faster on its axis. Greed and Fear are everywhere. I'm resisting the temptation to become a Buddhist Nun and move to a Nepalese monastery high up in the Himalayas. (Not sure Nepal is in the Himalayas but I'm claiming poetic license for today's fantasy.)

What I want to know is, what happened to the carbon footprint and green issues every news channel and supermarket was raving on about a few weeks ago? Surely the planet is still in need of saving? The orang-outans, the gorillas, even the humble hedgehog and sparrow of our hedgerows? And starving people in war torn countries. Darfur? Somalia? And M&S are still charging 10p per new plastic bag...

What I also want to know is when did Iceland go from being an exotic ice garden of Eden for Innuits and polar bears, and well, Icelanders, to being a financial centre of global significance? Who invests in Icelandic banks? Or rather who hasn't? They were all at it.

Maybe with all that global warming Gore tried to warn us about, all those Icelandic deposits have just melted away - a fitting moral to the story.

Monday, 6 October 2008

I'm feeling a bit empty!

I finished the acting job last Thursday and took the next 3 days off. And now it's Monday and the week looks a bit... empty! There's people to phone up, friends to meet up with to discuss new projects, and plays to see (Pinter's One Man Land at the Duke of York Theatre, with Michael Gabon). But there's still that overwhelming feeling of lack of purpose. Will I ever get an acting gig again?

It's very childish behaviour. And quite irrational (a big casting director told my agent I was "delightful" last week. And my favourite PR man thought my latest photos were "fabulous".) The thing is I want everything to happen now, preferably all at the same time, and the way I imagine that I want it. And I want more of it.


We're running riot. (Me and my Ego.) Let's try and refocus.

Let's make a list of what I want. And another of what I need.

What I need:
1. to be at one with the universe and let it guide me along my path.

What else? That's pretty much it. Really? Well, I also need courage and serenity to help me achieve item 1. Ok. Do they need to be in any specific order? Don't think so.

2. Courage
3. Serenity

Actually, can we switch them around? What? Oh, you're impossible!

What I Need List:
1. Be at one with the Universe
2. Serenity
3. Courage

What about the other list? What other list? Are you listening to me or entry 27 on the UK Top40? Sorry! The I Want List.

What I Want List:
Happiness, things going my way, financial security, love, admiration from the public and my peers, recognition, peace of mind, great legs, a greener planet, less poverty in the world, less pain, death, disease and greed. And a better theme song for the new Bond film.

Shall I go on? You sound like you're scraping the barrel. Or is that scrapping?

Why are you asking me?

I dunno. I guess the I Want List is pretty pointless. Isn't it? Yes, so it seems, but it's up to you. Oh...

So it is. Let's just go with the first list, the What I Need List, and leave it at that. Ok.

And out.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Let’s put it on ice.

I had to make a very difficult and painful decision on Friday. And I'm feeling a bit bruised as a result. Shame they don't make ice packs for feelings and emotions. There's always Valium but somehow that feels a bit 1960's and for middle aged Hausfraus who use cold cream and wear rollers in their hair overnight. And house coats. And those silly swimming caps with big plastic flowers on them.

So, with Valium out of the equation, I'm just going to have to sit it out.

It helps that the weather's taken a turn for the better - with all that sunshine and blue sky it's hard not to feel optimistic.

On a happier note, I've been learning my lines for the latest episode of Katie and Co. (the sitcom I'm shooting for the Mail on Sunday website). It's got a Thelma and Louise theme, but without any of the driving! Hope we at least get a convertible... Unfortunately, the way that episode is written, will be spending most of it in a really dingy and sad looking roadside eatery. And I'm supposed to be stuffing my face with chips and greasy food throughout it.

Hey. We all have our cross to bear.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Mail on Sunday

As the Actress said to the Bishop...: Are you coming up for air?

As the Actress said to the Bishop...: Are you coming up for air?

Are you coming up for air?

It's been a while. Hasn't it?

I've been shooting a webcast sitcom called "Katie and Co." for the Mail on Sunday. It's Friends meets Bridget Jones. The main character's a people pleasing restaurant critic about to turn 40, and she's got a live-in statistician boyfriend, an really hot ex, and 3 best mates from her Uni days. I'm one of her Uni friends. It'll launch exclusively on the Mail on Sunday website on Oct. 5. Which is like, next week!

As part of this shoot - and the photo shoot for publicity material - I've been exposed to and learnt many new (valuable things):

I am really short. I had to stand on a box in the cast line-up pictures so that my head would actually be in the frame!

My eyes don't need too much make-up to fall into Drag Queen territory.

One of the advantages of being short is that I am petite. (I like that one.) None of the clothes fitted me at the photo shoot and I had to be pinned into stuff. And told I was "so cute and dinky" by the stylist. I felt like Kylie for about 5 minutes and then started to worry that I might inhale a whole cake and balloon up to a size 14 by the end of the week.

I have a father figure fetish. Photographer. Director. Who ever's in charge. Who ever's the daddy on set, I want to be their special princess. Odd.

I have a thing for DOPs. (Director of Photography, the person who mans the camera and is in charge of lighting and framing). They're usually the quiet reflective type and they have the power to make you look really good or really bad, or just average. They have magical abilities and are super cool. I don't want to be their princess, I want to be their favourite toy.

I look sexy in a saucy policewoman's outfit. Oh yes! Apparently. That's what everyone on set said: from my rather louche hot blooded co-actor, to the cute early 20's stylist (a girl), to the apologetic props man, to the DOP (he didn't say anything, he didn't have to), to the punters in the pub who rubbernecked as I ambled past. The outfit consisted of: a push up bra, a white policewoman shirt with "69" shoulder tags, a very tight black Mango skirt to the knee, fishnets, impossibly kinky S&M stilettos, rude looking black plastic truncheon, and very fake plastic handcuffs. Someone took some pictures so you'll see for yourself.

I also learned that I'm roughly a size 10 (8 in M&S) and that as a consumate pro, I can walk in size 7 shoes (I'm size 4) if I have to. And that I look good in skirts.

Finally, opaque tights are cool and trendy and not a throw back to my 1980's school days.

I am grown-up, I can wear make-up, I can dress up, I can look sexy. I am an actress. Cool!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

ouch! I got stuff in my eye...

Well it had to happen, cranked up as I was by my "whale day" yesterday.

I got in the shower at the gym after the body pump class and presto, managed to squeeze shower gel into my eye. (Before you ask, I'm not quite sure what body part I was aiming for, and I'm not quite sure how it happened.)

Of course this is not just about the showergel (which I've decided was a personalised warning from the Greater Universe for me to slow things down a bit and take it easy). The thing is, I've got a thing about my eyes.

I really do.

I mean, I don't really mind pain as a rule: I enjoy sitting in the Dentist chair and I'm not bothered by inocculations.

As long as it's not anywhere near or in my eyes.

Eye drops hurt. Plain water hurts. Professional make-up artists let me do my own mascara. My eyes are so dry I can't even wear contact lenses for more than an hour at a time. (I can put them on but there's a trick to it. It's called vanity.)

So a big blob of showergel found its way onto my eyeball. After the initial pain-free realisation (like that bit in cartoons when characters remain temporarily suspended in mid air before crashing to the ground) I got hit by an almighty burst of stinging pain.

There I stood. With one hand covering my good eye (to keep the water and anything else out of it) whilst trying to rinse out the other eye by looking up towards the shower head.

Not good.

Afterwards I stumbled over to the mirror. The white bit was covered in red lines. And my eye had already shut to about half it's normal size (even without the squinting). A bit like one-eyed crying.

It hurt when I opened it. It hurt when I blinked. It was better when I kept it shut. So did a fantastic impression of a pirate in the changing room. I think some people were avoiding me.

Of course my eye looks just fine today. Which is a good thing as I've got a stills shoot over the next two days and my character doesn't have pinkeye. (It's for a webcast sitcom for a well known company and more will be revealed when it's up and running.)

I guess I was overdue for a shower incident. My last shower trauma was at Uni (the first time around) when I slipped coming out of the shower, fell backwards landing on my tailbone, and the soap I was holding flew out of my hand and hit me in the eye...

If that was a message from the Greater Universe at the time, I didn't heed it.

But I will this time. I promise.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Don’t screw your face up like that!

I was at Yoga last night. Ashtanga.

For you neophites out there, it's a dynamic form of yoga that makes your heart race and your muscles lean and defined (like Madonna - that's why I do it).

We had a substitute teacher. I didn't catch her name but she was very beautiful. Her skin was the colour of honey. She also had the really serene vibe of holistic practioners. A vibe I would simply die for. You know: soft skinned and soft spoken, chilled, measured and with purposeful but unhurried movements. No sweat (apparently sweat comes from bound flow - tension and fear and a general feeling of wanting to run away from the situation).

Unfortunately, I'm genetically engineered along the lines of a sewing machine: tatatatatatatatatatatatata. Pause. Tatatatatatatatatatatatatata. Pause. Undo all the stitching, it's crooked. Tatatatatatat.... You get my drift.

She also practiced without a mat.

It turns out she's from Australia and has a wicked sense of humour. She spent most of the class giggling and gaffawing and making fun of people's funny facial expressions as they coerced their bodies into certain asanas (aka poses). (In yoga they have these things called "binds" where you're essentially tying your arms around yourself. If you forget to breathe, your face contorts and you look like you're trying to squeeze out a reluctant fart. Or worse.)

The trick is to close your eyes. Apparently. Harder than you think when you're balancing on one leg. With your chin touching your shin.

That was last night.

Today I'm going to do some running, an abs class and a body pump class. What can I say, I'm having what I call a "whale day" - feeling enormous and blobby - and a bit of cardio helps me sweat out those pesky thoughts. I could do another yoga class instead but I want to burn some calories.

Silly and pointless. But there you go. A minor delinquence in the scheme of things. What's caused it? PMT? Lack of control?

In other words, today I'm in a spiritual bind. Face all screwed up. Desperately trying to strike a pose and hold it for the duration.

When all I need to do is close my eyes and breathe...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

You want me to wait for how long?

Willfulness. Like the guy who accelerates past you a little recklessly revving the engine on his VW sports thingy, only for you to catch up with him 3 seconds later at the traffic lights.

It doesn't really get you anywhere fast. It's just tiring and pointless.

So why do we do it? And more to the point, why do I do it? Why don't I just flow in unison with the Greater Universe and see where that takes me? Why? Why? Why?

Questions are another form of willfullness. Children are very good at it. Why is the sky blue? Because of the layers of molecules and the way the light refracts off of them. Why is that? Why? Why?

When I put it like that, it sounds terribly pointless and unpleasant. But that doesn't capture the half of it. Willfullness seduces us because of its promise of realised dreams and ambition. "I want therefore I am. Therefore I have. Lots and lots. Therefore I'm happy."

But when was the last time having what you wanted make you happy? Or happy for more than - let's say 24 hours?

No. No. Much better to stick with the plans the Greater Universe has developed in its infinite wisdom and infinity.

I may have to wait for a while, for a long while (it always feels like a long while when you don't know how long it's going to be) but at least I'll get what I'm meant to receive. And in my experience, that's always the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.

You want me to wait how long?

However long it takes.

Ok then. Try me. It's the weekend.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

You’re making a lot of noise!

It's rather noisy in my neck of the woods at the moment. There's been scaffolding going up across the street with the guys doing their best impression of a seal colony. There's been continuous drilling on a building site next door, and in the last few minutes, some serious sawing of the newly asphalted road just outside the house. They managed to set fire to it last time they did it (the asphalt, not my house) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And it's not just me finding London a tad wee noisy after my sojourn up north. Oh no! The really chilled out girl who works in the caf next door is going spare.

It's a bit like having your teeth drilled without anaesthetic.

But without a sexy dentist leaning over you real close.

Life takes on a different quality when it's submerged with noise. It's a bit like drowning in an ocean, except with drowning, there's an inevitable release. It's just singularly unpleasant.

Still, I'll be out of the house soon enough. Yoga beckons. And groceries!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


The weather this morning is doing it's best impression of winter but it's got nothing on Gustav. And after a particularly rainy August in Edinburgh (the locals were apologetic) I barely notice it. Besides, I'm a three time auntie as of less than 24 hours ago! For the record, I don't mean my sister had triplets. Maybe the correct term is "third time auntie".

(This isn't going to flow very well because I'm having to rewrite the original blog entry which got deleted before I could save it - when my screen went blank a minute ago...)

Being an auntie is the best bit. No childrearing responsabilities, no discomfort, no discipline. You get to be immature and childish and play. Sing songs, teach them silly and useless things (like blowing raspberries), and generally re-live your own childhood but better and in technicolour with all the mod coms (web, mobiles, digital cameras, and colourful clothes).

And if you don't have children of your own, kids don't classify you as an adult. By default, you're one of them except taller (just), with a driver's license (just), and a wallet! So I get to have friends. It's pretty cool.

It's still grey and rainy outside. The cars make that weird splish splash with their wheels as they drive along the sodden asphalt. You can hear water dripping from roofs and pipes - and from the sky of course.

But hey, I'm an auntie three times over and feeling rather sunny inside.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Can you breathe ok?

We've left August behind. It's September now and that conjures up all kinds of emotions and images relating to wet leaves on the pavement, new school books and the dreaded return to school. And the smell of winter.

It's not all bad of course. There's always the conkers to look forward to. How shiny they look at first! And all those French autumnal dishes that my mother excells at. Mushroom and Rocquefort pie, our national (ooops, regional) Alsatian dish: choucroute!!!, the Spanish Cocido (it's a stew). And many many more. It's a time for game, and fungus.

Still, it's a bright and sunny day here in London. With a chill to the air which bodes well.

I'm still recovering from this rather formidable cold that assailed me - without any warning (any warning that I heeded to that is) - on Thursday evening. It's been rough. Breathing has been a bit of a challenge. But I'm much better now.

I've got things to do, places to be... like preparing for an internet sitcom I've just been cast in. (WOO HOOO!!) But uncharacteristically, I'm going to take it easy today.

And keep that foot off the pedal. Just for today.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Say "aaaaaaaah"

I think I'm coming down with the dreaded Edinburgh Flu. Ever the contrarian, I've waited till I was back in London to catch it. If it's the Black Scottish Flu, I'm fucked.

Half sprawled on the couch, I'm patiently waiting for the sun to burn through the cloud cover so that I can have a semblance of a summer and maybe even recover. That's not going to happen is it? The sunshine I mean. In my weakened state no one dare tell me but I know, I know... Summer is well and truly over.

Still, I'm going to drag myself out later on, wearing my brand new mini purple tartan kilt and pink dance tights. And high heeled red patent leather shoes. Well, it would be nice to finally start earning a proper living this year! (The tarty toenails are still going strong.)

No need for the doctor, and hold off on the black rimmed cards and crowns of flowers. I'm not dead yet. Just middling. Idling. Limbo-ing.

When all I want to do is to keep going, like a rocket.

High high high into the sky.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Can you fit me in?

The smell of burnt toast lingers in the flat in spite of all the windows being open. I overdid the toast this afternoon and it set the smoke alarm off and stunned the office boys downstairs who'd gathered on the front doorstep as part of their evacuation procedure. They were even more stunned when I showed up, in my short hot pants and pink cut off t-shirt (and my glasses) to reset the alarm.

Stunned and appreciative I think. Well, they looked pretty enthusiastic (and stared pretty enthusiastically too). Then I had to climb back up the stairs so they got a really good view, rear view that is...

Now I don't dare make another piece of toast.

Anyway, apart from my unscheduled exhibitionistic tendencies nothing of note has occured yet on my full day back in London. Slept in till 7. (I know, but that's sleeping in for me.) Went to an audition near the British Museum.

Dropped into Hummus Bros for lunch. They've put their prices up (apparently the cost of seeds and pulses is going up too - like everything else) and they didn't offer me the usual option of a free hard boiled egg. I didn't feel like a hard boiled egg today but it's the principle of it.

Called to make an hair appointment with Tommy Guns but they couldn't fit me it. Patrick has gone on hols so no haircut until he comes back week after next.


I'm slowly coming back to normal life and back down to earth. (It's all relative. Ask Einstein.) Disjointed, mock-discontent. Not disapproving (other than of Patrick's ill-timed holiday). Nor disengaged. Distemper: never! Disproportionate: always.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Heading South of the border

I'm on the train. Ediburgh, Newcastle, York, something else (Peterborough actually), and London KingsCross. Heading South, like the swallows. The carriage is a wonderfully charming amalgam of the regions we're passing through. Thick accents from thickly set ladies and tough looking lads. And smartly dressed elderly ladies on their way down to
London on their bi-annual pilgrimage (maybe The Sales are on?)

The other thing that characterises this train journey is the occasional waft of country smells that temporarily suffuses the carriage: from cow manure (I love it! It makes me think of the country side, and my grandmother's village in Northern Spain and holidays.), to burning leaves (unpleasant), to artificial fertiliser (very unpleasant).

I'm seated at one of those tables for 4 with 2 inscrutable but upper middle class foreigners. Who somehow, insist on speaking heavily accented English to one another. Posh enough to travel first class but relaxed enough to slum it in second. With the thick-set Geordies. And me.

I pointed out the Angel of the North to them, as we left Newcastle. And that has proven to be the extent of our conversation. I mentioned it a wee bit early so we had a few minutes of uncomfortable – almost reproachful – silence as we cranned our necks expectantly waiting for it to appear. I kept thinking "Maybe we've passed it already…" I don't know what they thought – as I said, they're rather unscrutable – but I could feel the impatience gnawing. But then we saw it! The Angel of the North.

Still, the most fascinating thing about them is the prodigious quantities and variety of food they have ingested so far. I know it's a four and a half hour journey and I've had a diet coke, a ham and cheese baguette, a punnet of Marks and Spencers strawberries and a kitkat from the train trolley (I know, first chocolate in 6 weeks! I didn't even care that it was half melted and made my fingers sticky.) But they're in a different league altogether. And yet they are so slim! Out of two orange Sainsbury's shopping bag, they've had bars of chocolate, a whole pack of what looks like oblong buns – what the French would call Viennese bread – with chocolate chips, and lately a peach! I think there's more to come. Actually, the husband is now chewing gum.

The BBC weather forecast this morning promised 22 degrees in London this afternoon, but so far the sky's grey mulch has pretty much clung to us. But the wellies are safely packed away in my suitcase. I'm still banking on sunshine.

Like the swallows.