Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I want to be a world famous fetish model

I didn't say that. I wish I had but sadly I can't take credit for it. These words were uttered by Ditta Von Teese, the self styled 50's pin-up queen of burlesque. She started her career as a fetish model, gained notoriety for her signature style and then drifted into burlesque.

My point is, other than the gratuitous titillation, that Ditta's success came from her carving out a niche for herself with a consistent and well differentiated image. It's branding 101 really. But with self adhesive pasties (not the Cornish ones - I think that's off the menu if you want to look like THAT.)

So what is my niche? What is the look and style that will help me build a following in the casting community?

The thing is, it's not as easy for actors as it is for performers. An actor needs to remain neutral enough that he/she can be cast in a variety of roles. And in the beginning, until you've established a name for yourself, all the casting director sees is your photo... in a sea of photos of other anonymous faces. How on earth do you stand out without making yourself look like an alien?

Let's think positively for a moment. Let's assume that I can tread this delicate balance between differentiation and neutrality... what image am I aiming for? I'd love to look like Ditta (I think what I mean is that I'd love to uh... hang out with Ditta) but I have a clowny side which draws me closer to Shirley Maclaine than Marilyn. I also have a weakness for Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean. Not so much the movie version but rather the TV series. I like the sweetly tragic nature of the character, especially when he is alone in his tiny betsit interacting with his teddy. Are you still with me?

So, the big question is how could I combine Ditta and Mr Bean? Just because I love two things doesn't mean that the combination would be something "devoutly to be wished"... afterall, I LOVE After Eights and I LOVE bouillabaisse but I don't think they'd combine very well, do you?

Maybe I should seek inspiration from the masters of mixing: Ben & Jerry's. They concocted some pretty awesome combinations: Fish Food, Cheeky Monkey. Maybe I should drop my name and replace it with a catchy moniker: Lady Bella or Greggy the Frog or... something that doesn't make me sound so much like something out of a Guy Ritchie film.

So where does this leave me? I think maybe I should postpone all thoughts on the matter till after Christmas. Apparently turkey's really good for brain function...

In the meantime, here's to health, happiness and frilly knickers, and a new year full of discovery.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The film what I was almost the star in

Last year, I auditionned for an American feature film. It was to play the lead. I got a recall. Then I went to Edinburgh to do my one woman show.

The film has been made. Without me obviously. Guess who is playing "my" part? Milla Jovovich.

That's right, the ex-model, ex-wife of Jean-Luc Besson, face of L'Oreal and all around leggy big eyed beauty.

Nice to know one's casting type.

The film was called something else at the time but it's been released as The 4th Kind. I saw the trailer on TV and the ads on the sides of London buses. Here's the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sucJ8tjazD8

I'm not sure it would have got its international release if I'd been in it so I'm glad I helped in my own small way by letting Milla play the lead.

I've taken a strange pride in this film. I'll even go and see it. It's a thriller/sci-fi/horror film about alien abduction and strange goings-on. And it got me/Milla playing the lead.

It's a very odd phenomenon. I get it with TV commercials too. The ones I auditioned for but didn't get: when they're finally shown on television, I feel strangely proprietary.


Here's to Milla and all the acting opportunities... because we're worth it.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Kate Moss stole my bra

What happens when the world's most beautiful, stylish, famous model and muse puts on a few pounds? Does she get cellulite and wobbly upper thighs, or grow a muffin top, or get a gut? No! It goes straight to fill a B-cup.

There is no God. But I love her anyway. Kate I mean. I think she's just splendid. Has turned all her quirks into winning assets and she's got more durability than the Duracel bunny. And she sounds like she's good fun, and supportive of her friends. And you hardly ever hear her speak. She does her thing and doesn't give a d*** who doesn't approve. I'm a big fan.

What's the female equivalent of homoerotic? Sapphic? I like the shape of her mouth at rest. The way her lips part. I like the way she tilts her head back in shots. And I like that her face scrunches up in a funny clowny way when she laughs and that she doesn't care. She's cool Kate. She's from Croydon and doesn't feel bad or apologetic about it.

Moving on.

I had an audition on Monday for a dairy company. The brief was milk maid. I'm just kidding, the brief was to play a mid-4o's business woman "who loses her stealy exterior when she tastes the product..." Ooh ah. Well, I walked into the casting suite and they had me play a completely different (and much younger) character. It was fun actually: a bit of improv with one of the other girls attending the casting. And no product tasting - which is always a bit awkward. Should find out if I got it by the end of the week.

I wonder what Kate Moss eats and in what quantities. I bet she doesn't raid her fridge. I bet she doesn't procrastinate. I bet she just does her thing and doesn't get all neurotic about it. I bet she doesn't fantasise about what she'd be doing with her millions if she'd won the £45 million jackpot the other week (fair enough, she's already got more than that in the bank).

Am I the anti-Kate? (Antiquate?) No. Afterall, we now share a bra cup. So we're more like boob twins.

What'd'you know. Tittwins! Kate and me.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Be quiet! I am too beautiful to talk to you...

... preferably said in a comedy Russian/dodgy old Duchess Eastern European accent.

This is a subject I often revisit. Why is it that physical beauty is not always matched by kindness and generosity? Why did Mother Teresa and Naomi Campbell look the way they did/do (albeit at 100 for Mother Teresa) and act the way they did/do?

Does the universe have some kind of rule that a human being can only really really good or really really beautiful?

It's a puzzle to me. That said, the rule also seems to apply to fame and power. As well as some of the try-hard upmarket hotel staff and football players. (But who wants to talk to them?)

I think it may be linked to a deep seated insecurity. I think it's a shame.

Me, I'd rather talk to Mother Teresa any day. Directly or via a medium.

Maybe beautiful people are not meant to be talked to, only looked at, from afar. In religious silence. Or preferably with adverted eyes.

Maybe they think we're all paparrazzi? Maybe they have tickets on themselves? Maybe they think we common mortals have nothing to offer and can only be on the take?

I say, wakey wakey, your looks will go, your power will fade, your fame will disappear... and then, you will be nothing but an empty hollow shell, and you will drift, like tumble weed in the Western Desert.

So hop off your tabloid pedestal, relinquish your self imposed exile and join the party.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Howard Barker and the pillow bandit

I am a pillow bandit. I admit it. I steal pillows, in my sleep, in the middle of night, from under slumbering heads...

It's a new trend. It just started. Actually, it's only happened once so far so calling it a trend might be a little premature.

I'm not even sure of what happened exactly. Accounts differ.

I remember waking briefly and becoming aware of the absence of pillow underneath my head. I remember reaching out, feeling the edge of a pillow case under my fingers, pulling the pillow to me - it felt deliciously cool and plump - tucking it under my head and falling back asleep. Then later, after feeling a tug and hearing a muffled complaint, relinquishing the pillow and simultaneously remembering that my very own pillow was actually tucked under my arm in a little tight bundle.

Apparently, that's the slow motion version. Apparently I yanked it from under his head, which woke him up with a start when his head hit the mattress after a few micro-seconds of cartoonlike suspended animation. He yanked it back pretty sharpish, but then - and there's the crime - lay awake for a long time... slumber cruelly eluding him.

Frankly, I'm appalled. I like to think of myself as being a generous and considerate person (or at the very least a top rate people pleaser) but this doesn't seem to extend to my unconscious self. Apparently, my unconscious self is greedy and possessive and a thief, and thinks nothing of ruining other people's good night sleep.

I wish I could blame it on Howard Barker. Yesterday I did a rehearsed reading of one of his latest play "Deep Wives and Shallow Animals" at the Jermyn Street Theatre, as part of the 21 for 21 Festival (an international celebration of the 21 years of Barker's theatre company The Wrestling School). And guess what? (What?) Howard Barker came to the reading. And he stayed after and talked to us for a long time. And said some lovely things. And was altogether lovely and very kind. Which just goes to show that you can be the enfant terrible of British Theatre, be the modern Shakespeare (as coined by Dominic Cavendish, Deputy Theatre Critic of The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-news/6396396/International-Howard-Barker-day.html), write beautifully dark and twisted material, and still turn out to be a sweetie pie. So no, I can't and won't blame it on Howard Barker.

I'm hoping this was a one-off nocturnal misdeanor. A unique abberation. The pillow incident obviously, not the Howard Barker play reading which I hope will lead to more drama of the good kind!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Me, Camilla and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Don't think about buses. I know, they too come along all at once after long and unexplained periods of absence.

The thing is, I've had a rather successful bout of celebrity spotting recently. And given that it was my first in 10 years in London - I found it rather exciting in a small child at DisneyLand kind of way.

Now, I have to come clean about a little quirk of mine. I struggle with facial recognition. I get people's faces mixed up because they look the same to me, even if no other person can see the resemblance. For example, for many years I thought Chicago Hope and ER were the same show (for the record, I never followed either particularly assiduously). I thought George Clooney and Adam Arkin were the same person - just that in some episodes Clooney looked a little more tired and rough around the edges... Perversely, I've never found Madame Tussaud's waxworks particularly lifelike nor do I find look-a-likes particular "like." There you have it.

However, on the same day that I saw the A of C at The Garrick, I also saw Camilla Parker-Bowles!

I was about to cross Cornhill in the City when a motorcade descended upon the scene and swiftly blocked all pedestrian and vehicular traffic. This prompted dark mutterings on my part about England aping the worst of the post-Independence excesses of the African continent. Don't know why but motorcades always bring out the little French Republican in me. You know, La Victoire, one tit exposed, Le Tricolore flag in one hand, and the Cocarde perched on my head at a jaunty angle leading the Sans-Culotte over the Barricades. (Don't be alarmed, or worse titillated: it's just a little visual in my head, I don't actually act it out on the streets. )

Back to my mutterings of dictatorial excesses of the governing classes. As the first of the two official cars drew up to my level, I couldn't resist peering in - like a complete peasant! - and lo and behold there was Camilla looking rather glum and serious with another lady sitting beside her. My mood lifted immediately. I'd just seen Camilla! I didn't even mind the motorcade so much - besides, they'd now departed and I had the road all to myself again.

My latest celebrity spotting was Dexter Fletcher (the curly haired one in Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels and more recently playing the Concierge in Hotel Babylon) at Borough Market last Saturday - buying olives. Verified by a third party. (The conversation went like this. Me: Is this the guy from Lock Stock and Hotel Babylon or does he just look like him or does this person not even remotely look like him? Him: It's him. Definitely. Me: He look so different from his part. His hair is longer and almost white! Him: Yes, but it's definitely him:well spotted!)

Now there's a celebrity spotter extraordinaire. I think he's seen more celebrities than a paparazzi. It's partly due to working in Soho (sees Mike Leigh on a regular basis, cheered up Macy Gray) and partly due to his habit of lunching in posh places. He once sat next to Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson at Claridges. He also has the knack for being in the right place at the right time. He once sa George Bush Sr. drive past him in his motorcade during a presidential visit. And the thing is Bush actually waived to him...

The things wot I done the sights wot I seen

It's been a while, I know. Well, I've been busy. I have! Why didn't you write me?

Did you at least miss me? Wondered where I'd got to? If I'd ever come back?

Chances are no one noticed. A full month sans blogging - and nada.

Ah well, since you ask, since you're silently begging me to reveal all, I'll tell what I've been up to.

It all started with a wonderfully glorious bank holiday weekend with P&M in West Sussex where we were treated to Rusalka at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival (you know, the one where the leading lady famously tripped and fell into the orchestra pit - the week before we saw her), homegrown vegetables and fruit (we took home bags of the stuff - I even made rhubarb jam for the first time), and the company of two adorable miniature Dachshund. It was English summer at its best. Pure Julian Fellowes.

Then we went to Lords' Cricket Ground and saw our first One Day International (England vs. Australia and the Aussies' won!). That was fun too except it was so unexpectedly cold and breezy. Caught a slight chill actually, but it was well worth it.

The following week we were treated to The Mysteries at the Garrick Theatre, by Cape Town theatre company Isango Portobello . We loved it, the Archbishop of Canterbury loved it (he was there, I saw him. Dog collar and all). Don't miss it. In the meantime, here's a little snippet of modern anthropology for you: had a full row of American, middle aged, Church going ladies in front of us - sharing a bag of Bassett's winegums and a full row of kids watching the show in the row behind us. Kids had NO IDEA who or what the Archbishop of Canterbury was. Never even heard of him. Didn't ring any bells. By the way, The Garrick sells some mean chocolate ice cream at intermission, with flecks of dark chocolate mixed in. Yum. (Why the religious theme do I hear you ask? The Mysteries is a medieval play based on Bible Stories. Now you know.)

Then last Saturday got treated to some ColdPlay tickets at Wembley. We really enjoyed Jay-Z! He was amazing. It was amazing. Wembley I mean. First time there. Not just at the new arena, I mean first time at Wembley ever. Only been in London for 10 years (me not Wembley). Actually, it was my first concert in a while... did you know that those giant screens either side of the stage now have crystal clear resolution? No more pixelating! I need to go out more... Oh, and we showed up at Gate B and the man on the door said "you look to me like you have ClubWembley seats", glanced at the tickets and added "yep! it's over that way. Really good tickets." We didn't even know we had Club Wembley tickets. We didn't know what Club Wembley was. It's the posh bit. Where industry types and corporates hang out. They sell strawberries and champagne in the posh bar. We just had water from the main counter (no tap, £2 a bottle decanted into a plastic cup). And the other good bit was that we'd checked the weather forecast so we had our rain gear ready for when it started raining. And raining. And pelting down with rain at the start of the ColdPlay set. It was well dry in the Club Wembley bit though. But the rain gear kept us dry on the walk back to the Tube stop.

So that's my excuse for being - well - absent in the blog sense of the word. Blogsent? Ablogsent?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

When I grow up I wanna be a cyberdolly!

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. I've got a blog and a website, and five email addresses. I'm also a bit of a text fiend. But am I losing touch with reality?


Reality. Remember? Talking to other people face to face, or writing them a letter that folds into an envelope with stamp and mail? Getting your hands and knees dirty in the garden. Getting grass stains on your white trousers because you sat in the park at lunch...


Are we still real or are we turning into cyber versions of ourselves? Some people are getting a divorce on the grounds that their partner is in a "relationship" with someone else on one of those sites where you can create an alterego. How real is that? Is it that different from fantasising?

Where do we draw the line?

Maybe it's a question of balance. A friend of mine (she created the amazing set of my one woman show last year) just lost her entire email history for the last 10 years when her Yahoo account was deleted. Should so much of ourselves be invested in the ether, and entrusted to remote servers?

Well, it's convenient. Having a portable life that fits in your pocket. Everything is a click away. All your memories and experiences available at the click of a button or the swivel of the round thingy on the IPod. Life on the go. Life as take away.


Maybe some of the time. But do I want my life "to go" or do I want the option to sit for a leisurely 6 course meal without worrying about a restaurant's second sitting policy? Do I want finger food every day? Or would I like to use a knife and fork, chopsticks, and on special occasions those fancy fish knives and other exotic bits of cutlery that you find in a proper silverware set?

And that's not even counting gaming and other interactive pursuits.

Is the cyber version of ourselves enriching itself at the expense of our real selves? Does every minute spent on Twitter reduce our real life experience by the same amount?
What about all those "real time" applications? Is time real in cyberspace?

Who do I want to be? The imperfect one, made of flesh and blood, with all the limitations that entails, or the cyber version of me edited as I choose to present to the global internet community? What's a better sign of popularity: one real friend or 100 FaceBook friends?

What if people like cyber me more than real me?

In the meantime, I have an audition coming up for a French speaking part in a Polish bank commercial.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

To dye or not to dye? or Is Grey the new Blonde?

Let's begin at the beginning.

I'm having a hair crisis.
Again. (No need for panic though as it only scores a measly 5 on the IGIS*.)
Short hair is fantastic: youthful, showcases your features, makes you stand out from the casting crowd (why do they all have shoulder length hair?), no split ends. The downside is that it has a recurring tendency to grow out very suddenly. You can go from elfin to matronly literally overnight. Thank goodness Luigi is on hand to work his magic in a few days' time.
But never one to await rescue, I felt I had to take action. So I thought I'd dabble with dyeing my hair. Nothing too daring. Just a slightly lighter shade of brown. Now, apart from an aberrant and short lived forray into red in the late 90's, I haven't really explored the world of hair colour. It's no wonder that those 10 minute claims on home colouring kits proved too much to resist. In spite of the professionl advice to first timers never EVER to do home colour, I went ahead.
It was quick and painless, with none of that repulsive amonia smell. Unfortunately, the result looks rather cheap. I was aiming for medium brown, but it's gone a bit henna red. And combined with my short crop having outlived its shelf life, I feel like one of those short haired Mediterranean matrons who waddle around in slippers and pinafores and carry big shopping bags full of groceries.


Photo: Diego Cupolo


Hmmmm.

The thing is, this whole dyeing experience wasn't as impulsive as it appears. Dyeing has been on my mind for a while - I mentioned it to Luigi last time he cut my hair. His perspective was refreshing: it doesn't matter what colour your hair is, as long as you've got some. He then added, you'll look fantastic with grey hair when you're older. It'll really suit your skin tone. It's going to be so striking.

Well, we're nowhere near that yet although I'll admit to yanking out the odd silver strand from my head here and there.
So why this fixation on hair colour? The truth is, I always wanted to be blonde. My mother maintains that with very few exceptions, we are born with the hair colour that suits us best - tough nuts if it's mousy brown. So I've always admired those women who look so incredibly and iconically sexy when they change their hair colour: Marilyn, Madonna, and more recently Scarlett Johansson in those D&G adverts, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce! In other words, why oh why can't I look drop dead fantabulous in platinum blonde? Why does it make me look grey and all washed out?
I tried to go blonde as teenager. I used SunIN. Remember that stuff? I ended up with a mop of orange hair. Tragic. My mother still talks about it.
So it got me to thinking that maybe grey could be the new blonde. I hear you guffaw. Silent in the ranks! I have 5 words for you: Meryl Streep Devil Wears Prada. And another two words: Helen Mirren. (That's at least 3 Oscars. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, and reflect on your prejudices!)

So the question is. Would I dare go grey as a fashion statement, before my hair actually starts to grey naturally?
Is the world (read the Film Industry and Casting Directors) ready for grey as a fashion statement or would I suddenly find myself in casting sessions lumped in with retirees and geriatrics?
What if the experiment didn't work? Would I be able to go back to brown and my own casting age or would I find myself irrevocably locked out of roles below the age of 60?
Thank goodness for Luigi's ultra short crops... my current dye job will most likely grow out before my next big audition.

It'll have been - dare I say it - a close shave.


*IGIS stands for Isabelle Grooming Issues Scale. The scale goes from -19 to stratospheric. (The negative scores correspond to issues that are not yet relevant eg deep frown lines, drooping breasts, drooping nose, ears and eyes, feathering lipstick, motled skin, post menopausal facial hair, adult acne, old lady flat bottom, hot flashes... hey, it sure puts things in perspective.)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Pin Up or Peanut?

It's official. I'm a pin up!
What I mean is I had my first upmarket fashion/art magazine interview ever... commissioned by a contributing editor to Vogue.
Need I say more...
Yes actually, I do! The magazine is called GLASS MAGAZINE, published by CondeNast. And I'm in rather good company: last month they had an interview with Michelle Yeoh.
Want to know what all the fuss is about?

A Cast of Thousands - Gregson on Mary Selway

Isabelle Gregson is a name you'll be hearing a lot more of in the next few months. Not content with being an actress (Law & Order: UK, Wire in the Blood), playwright and novelist (look out for her book 'As the Actress said to the Bishop', out next summer), she is putting her multifaceted talents to filming a biographical documentary on the late Mary Selway, the uber casting director of films like Indiana Jones, Aliens, Notting Hill and Gosford Park. Glass catches up with Isabelle during a brief gap in her hectic schedule to ask the whys, hows and whats of her latest creative endeavour..

Now go read about it! http://glassmagazine.co.uk/forum/feature.asp?tid=284

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Skinny, The Pudgy and the Ecto/Mesomorph

Is there any middle ground in the physical department for a woman after her late twenties? Leaving aside models and certain athletes, and Angelina Jolie, is there anything left between being unappealingly skinny (sunken cheeks, dull complexion, lanky hair, concave chest and absent rump) and deliciously endowed (overflowing bosom, rosy cheeks, luxuriant locks, full lips, and welcoming hips)? Is there? After your late twenties? Without counting Botox, lipo, reverse lipo (where they inject your own body fat into your face for example), or retouching on photoshop?

Show me. That’s right show me. No, she’s still in her mid-twenties. And that one's just turned 21. And this one doesn’t count. She used to be a man – they age better.

So what are we supposed to do? Until some clever boffin comes up with a way of re-engineering our DNA and turning us all into Mesomorphs (well those of us who want it – there’s no accounting for taste.) are we to be lamentably torn and tormented between these two archetypes?

So which one would you rather be? Sexy and size 14 (God knows all the good theatre parts seem to be written for them) or pinched and a size 0 (they have loads of parts for them in Hollywood, but then they expect you to have monstrously disfiguring plastic surgery: cheek bone implants, bigger eyes, smaller nose, and big big lips)?

- So what’s it gonna be?

- Somewhere in the middle.

- There is no middle after 28, you have to chose, take sides. Skinny or pudgy? Your call.

- Do I really have to make a choice?

- Yes. Stop wasting my time Lady, can’t you see the line behind you? If you don’t choose, we’ll choose for you.

- No!!

- OK then. What’s it gonna be?

(I don’t know where this exchange has come from, I appear to be channeling a strong African American lady with links to the US Immigration Services at JFK. “Stand behind the yellow line!” Let’s see where it takes us.)

- I’ll be sexy and size 14. But only if I can dress like Marilyn.

- What do I look like to you? The Fairy God Mother? Grab a boiler suit.

- A boiler suit? I don’t want to be a size 14 in a boiler suit! I want to be a size 0 in a boiler suit. What am I saying? I don’t want to wear a boiler suit. Period.

- Silence from the other girls waiting behind me in the queue. Stern gaze from the Matron. She’s a cross between Mama Morton and Meryl Streep in Doubt. I know, terrifying.

- Are you and me going to have a problem?

I’m shaking my head no.

- Cos it looks to me like we’re having a problem.

- Not really.

- Are you calling me a liar?

- Oh no! I just need a minute to make up my mind. It’s a difficult question.

- Let me get this straight. (She’s now referring to a bunch of note in her red notebook.) You’re the girl who always wanted to be thin from when she was like 7, the girl who obsesses about the size and shape of her belly, the girl who won’t buy new clothes because she’s terrified she’ll have to go up a dress size, the girl who periodically starves herself or goes on detox diets. It’s you we’re talking about. Right?

- I nod sheepishly. The queue behind me is straining forward and all ears.

- I’m giving you the choice, the opportunity to be a size 0, but I’m saying you can also be a size 14 if you like. You know, so that there’s no pressure. And you can’t make up your mind? What have you been secretely wishing for for the last 25 years every time you blow your birthday candles, or see a shooting star, or eat the first fruit of the season?

- (Me, in a whisper.) To be a size 0.

- What’s that? I can’t hear you. Quit mumbling!

- (Me, louder.) To be a size 0!

- Alright then, so is that what it’s gonna be. Size 0?

- I’m not sure.


- Excuse me?

- I don’t know anymore. I’m all confused. I want to be a size 0 because that’s supposed to be attractive but now you’re saying I can be a size 0 and unattractive or a size 14 and sexy and well see I had my mind set on being both a sexy size 0 and now you’ve turned it on its head so I’m confused. I’m not sure what I want.

Sigh from the Matron who’s got a heart of gold underneath that stern exterior. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but you can make one choice today, and then if you change your mind, we can accommodate that. Legally, you’re entitled to switch as many times as you want. At no extra charge.”

I bite the inside of my lip the way I do when there’s too much information for me to process.

- So what’s it gonna be, just for today?

I smile. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? And run to the back of the queue.

Monday, 3 August 2009

First Time

I did it! I finally got my first ever invite to dine at The Ivy!

On my quest to gather material for the book version of this blog, I landed myself the busiest Saturday in living memory. And I'm going to name drop shamelessly over the next few paragraphs, so brace yourselves and gird your loins...

Borough Market in the morning. Which was a challenge because I'm still on my detox diet. (It should be over by now, but it got interrupted by 5 days in the West Country with delicious pub food, irresistible puddings, and the odd Twister.) Determined to keep the weight off I've gone back to the beginning. This is week 2...) So the market consisted of me wondering around trying not to inhale the various cheeses, cookies, organic flap jacks and almond croissants on display. I also narrowly avoided killing the poor fellow manning the juicing stand: it was 9:45 and it said he wouldn't be ready for another 15 minutes...

Still, we managed to keep it all civilised. I resisted the German hot dog and the Turkish falafel and the chicken wraps (the chicken wasn't cooked yet) and slurped on my grass green kiwi/spirulina juice. I even managed to convince myself that it was nice and filling and contained all the energy I would need for my hour and half long dynamic yoga class...

Having survived yoga class, I went home for a quick lunch of green salad and a banana.

The plan was to then take an hour long nap before my casting workshop with BBC casting director Ben Cogan. But it took me ages to print out copies of my Spotlight CV (something to do with trying to cram 2 pages into 1) and so I ended up with a 20 minute cat nap which didn't really do the job.

Anyway, off I went to the workshop: starving and pretty tired. We had to do some scenes in pairs. We were first up and I felt really rusty and rather incompetent... I hadn't felt that way since drama school... Still, ego aside, I learnt a lot and Ben Cogan is a delightfully engaging man. (Please please cast me in one of the BBC series...)

After the workshop I headed home, narrowly avoiding purchasing a Classic Cornetto from the convenience store near Old Street tube. (And I do mean narrowly, I had my hand on the lid of the freezer...)

Once I got home, we had to get ready for an evening at the Theatre followed by said dinner at The Ivy.

"I'm thinking about wearing my mini-kilt from Edinburgh." (It's purple and pink and my trophy purchase at the end of my stay in Edinburgh last year.)

"I thought you'd be wearing your Thai trousers with the pin stripe."

Me - a tad defensive. "You don't think the kilt looks good?"

"It looks great, but the Thai trousers are more dressy."

So we headed off (me in my Thai trousers with the pin stripe, Repetto grey top and faux
purple snake skin Rock Chick jacket) in the pouring rain to the Soho Theatre to see "Dreams of Violence." It was fantastic! And all the more enjoyable because we sat in the second row, real close to the stage.

Then afterwards I got to meet Paula Wilcox, the star of the show as it happens that her husband was the one who'd invited us along to The Ivy for dinner.

Then we made our way The Ivy (the rain had stopped) and I got to meet the rest of the party.

The funny thing about The Ivy is that because it's a notorious hangout for celebrities, anytime someone walks in, all heads turn, scanning for a famous face. So we walked over to our table under the scrutinity of the other dinners. Very odd. I'm sure they recognised Paula.

Apparently, Sienna Miller was sitting across from us. Well, I completely blanked her because I wasn't wearing my specs and everything beyond our table was a blur. I hope she wasn't put off. (When I went to the loo, I think she might have been standing by the basins, but as I said, it was all a bit of a blur.)

We finished dinner around quarter past midnight. Before I forget, I had yellow tail sashimi and salmon fishcakes. I got to chat to our host, Paula's husband who is a very engaging American business man, as well as to a British captain of industry and his glamourous blonde American wife, and a romantic British lawyer and his partner, a quietly posh and very charming young artist who was wearing a fabulous dress; understated Boho chick, but classy. (I can't tell you what Sienna was wearing. Sorry about that.)

I don't know how else to describe it except it was a bit like being in a scene scripted by Julian Fellowes. I savoured every minute of it. It was a real treat. And I was aware of it being a treat as it was happening, rather than appreciating it only in hindsight (if you follow me).

Then we all said our goodbyes and headed home.

And that, as they say, was that. My first night at The Ivy.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

You're the bookish type, aren't you?

It's official. I'm writing my first novel.

Now, before you click on Ebay to buy me the prosthetic nose that Nicole Kidman wore in The Hours, let me set the record straight:I'm not aiming for high art, this is going to be more of the chick-lit/book-for-the-beach type rather than a candidate for the Man Booker Prize.

More Bradshaw than Atwood.

I'm planning to call it As the Actress Said to the Bishop and it'll be partly based on this blog - but with loads of other stuff thrown in for good measure.

I don't know about you but when I think of writers, I always picture them writing away in the garden shed, or at some fancy desk. The point is, writing is meant to be a lonely task. The challenge I've got is that in order to gather material, I need to be out and about and interact with people.

I'm starting off with a bang: attending a casting workshop followed by a play at Soho Theatre with Paula Wilcox and drinks after! There's Glyndebourne later on this month and fly fishing in early September but I don't think that's going to be enough. So, must fill up the diary between now and then.

And then on to the fun stuff: finding a literary agent, talking to publishers, and getting it on the shelves in time for next summer!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

"I've only got one wrinkle and I'm sitting on it!"

... said Jeanne Calment to a reporter shortly before her death (age 122) in 1997.

I hope this is because either she couldn't count or the wrinkling process somehow reverses when you pass 1oo... otherwise, I have to contemplate the fact that I have more wrinkles in my 30's than a 122 year old.

Or maybe it was a quip on her part.

I don't know about you, but my sense of humour (which is tenuous at the best of times) completely disappears when it comes to signs of ageing. The occasional silver hair, the first wrinkles around the eyes, fine lines around the mouth, age spots, general sagging... and that's just on the head!

I know, they sell miracle creams and there's Botox, or even facelifts for the foolhardy. But that all costs money. The credit crunch solution is to avoid all mirrors or reflective surfaces (and don't be tempted to take a peak in the side view mirrors!) and photographs (of yourself - obviously - not all photographs) - unless the lights are dimmed and there's a smear of Vaseline on the lense.

Then there's the difference between the stuff you know and expect from reading up on it in girlie mags --- you know, the articles that say: in your 20's., in your 30's, in your 40's, in your 50's... I remember seeig those in my early 20's and not even bothering with them. Then in my late 20's I started to read up what might happen in my 30's. Now, I can't bear to read about what might happen to me in my 40's let alone my 50's! (Apparently your earlobes and tip of your nose start sagging...)

--- and the stuff that takes you by complete surprise. Did you know that from your 30's onwards, if you go on a diet, your face falls off? Literally. One of the first things to go is the layer fat in the lower part of your face that keeps things looking plump and youthful. So you have to choose: nice bottom and flat belly or nice face. I'd rather have Nigella Lawson's face - wouldn't you? (Alternatively, you can have fat sucked out of your bottom belly and thighs and injected back in your face. I'd still rather look like Nigella.)

So until gene therapy comes to the rescue, I think I'll be sticking to a sensible diet, peppered with a few treats, and an endless supply of anti-ageing serum, day and night repair creams, face yoga and low lighting...

Having said that, I'm going to keep my options open: Wokey Hole are advertising for a witch to live in a cave as a tourist attraction (cackling is a must) and they're paying £50,000 a year.
Skinny and rich... just like Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor ordered.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

You're looking really good.

"You're looking really good."

Me, lying on the rug in my pyjamas: "Hmmmm." I was thinking how gravity was sinking my stomach in rather flatteringly but that the illusion would disappear once I stood up.

"You really are. And you have to learn to take a compliment."

Oh dear! We've been here before. I thought I'd learn to take a compliment. But apparently, these things can be unlearnt if they are not practiced. I'm not implying for a minute that I was out of practice because no one had been paying compliments... It's the "taking the compliment" bit that I hadn't been practicing. It takes a combination of humility, confidence, joie de vivre and optimism... like spinning china plates on top of long bamboo sticks.

"Thank you. Thank you very much. It's very nice of you to say."

I've been on this detox diet (still am: day 10 and counting.) which includes various forms of starvation (ranging from little food, to only food which is 90% water). So it makes sense that I would be looking marginally slimmer. Or does it?

I don't know about you but my body takes on average about two weeks to shift up or down weight wise. If I have a really greedy week, it doesn't show in that first week, and by the second week I'm thinking I've hit on the magic diet that lets you gorge on pudding and pizza without affecting your weight. So I carry on for a second week when all of a sudden "woomph!" my jeans are a bit tight and my bra cups threaten to spill over.

Conversely, if I'm on a diet, nothing really happens for those first two weeks. Makes it bloody hard to persevere... I'm thinking that my metabolism has finally got stuck on "very low" and nothing I do, not even near starvation, will melt the pounds away.

There's an ad on FaceBook at the moment that promises the loss of 2 dress sizes in 10 minutes. That sounds like a much better bet.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Bikini time!

I have some vague memories from history class about Bikini Island being blasted with a nuclear bomb at the end of WWII as a rehearsal before Hiroshima. (Actually, just googled it: it's Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, used as a nuclear bomb testing site by the US government in the 1940's and 50's. Now you know.)

Its namesake, the polka dot version, is just as explosive. Just the thought of it drives thousands of women (and I'm way at the front, ahead of the pack wearing both the yellow and the green jerseys) running away shrieking from various changing rooms. I don't care if it's got a super bra top that will "take the attention away from your hips" or a funky deeglo jungle pattern that will make everyone who as much as glances at me go temporarily blind... which ever way you look at it bikinis are terrifying.

The thing is, once I've been on the beach for a few days, and get a bit of a tan (that's a bit old fashioned, aren't we all supposed to rely on fake tan... or if we're really rich go for that ass milk 1920's pale look), everything starts to be and feel and look - well - normal. I don't know if it's exposing skin to the air, or salt water, or pool water (if you're on a proper posh holiday your pool water will be salt water) but everything tightens and smooths and looks just fine. Leaving me (and whoever else I've involved in the hysteria of bikini purchase and wear) wondering: well what was the big deal!?

The big deal is that before I get to that blissful stage, I have to purchase a new bikini. Why can't I wear last year's? Because I didn't go on a beach holiday last year (couldn't face buying a bikini) . The bikini at the bottom of my closet is at least 5 years old and what if it doesn't fit anymore?

- What, like it's too big?

- I wish! No, what if I can't fit into it anymore?

.... See?

So if I need a bikini, I have to buy a new one. And face my body at unflattering angles in a "fat" mirror with greenish lights that highlight every bump and every lump and every bit of orange peel and....

See?

The thing is, I'm not planning a beach holiday for the summer, but I may need to get into a bikini anyway. For work. Some auditions require you to pop into a bikini (what kind of auditions are these I hear you ask... well if you're playing a beach scene... they want to know what you're going to look like on camera...)

The thing is, I did buy a bikini last year, with two bottoms (because mine was so big... NO! one's a hipster and one's 2 little triangles tied with some string and beads). They had a 2 for 1 offer, I had a moment of madness.

So what's the big deal then? What's this all about?

I've gone on a diet. It's the 4 day diet. There are 5 diets in all. 4 days on each. Thats' 3 weeks of dieting, including 4 days where you're allowed chips (fries) and burger. For real.

That way, if I need to get into my bikini (for work or an impromptu prance around Lake Como):

a) I know i'll fit into it (both bottoms)

b) it'll look good... won't it? WON'T IT?

Friday, 26 June 2009

The end of the moonwalk?

My hairdresser Luigi and I have a theory. We think that Michael is still alive and well. That he isn't dead at all.

Actually, our theory goes further. We think that there's a mystery island somewhere in the Pacific (where else?) where mega celebrities retire to when they get tired of being icons. It's by invitation only. Their death is announced, they are buried, their families, fans and the world at large go into media coverage meltdown, and their estates make a a mint from the PR.

What actually happens, is that they pack a little suitcase (there's a hand luggage only policy) and board a chartered flight to this mystery island where they live out the end of their days in peace, wearing simple cotton clothing, no make-up, no entourage, no phones, no cameras, no TV's and no computers. They fish, they weave, they do yoga and tai chi. They grow pot bellies and beards (or armpit hair if they're women) and no longer care about wrinkles or bald spots. There are no mirrors, no press, no gyms and it's sunny everyday. They wear big floppy hats to keep the sun off and live in simple huts made of local materials.

They eat simple island food. No special diets, no ordering off menu.

It's a great crowd: JFK, his brother Robert, and Marilyn (but not Jackie O), Elvis (Michael's ex-father in law), Robert Johnson (he of the deal-with-devil-at-the-crossroad fame), John Lennon, George Harrison and Linda McCartney, Nathalie Wood, Lady Diana, Robert Maxwell and of course now Michael Jackson. This list is not exhaustive and there are other famous people there as well.

So that's our theory. Michael had had enough and decided to join the ultimate celebrity club.

He'll have to lose the sequined glove and face masks and the toys and antiques - and the monkey (no pets allowed). But that's ok. Me and Luigi think he's ready for a change.

Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life Michael, rest well my friend, you've certainly earned it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

I have a lazy soft palate

I now it sounds at best like something rude (and vaguely pornographic) and at worst like some alien deformity of the maxila but it's neither. It's a concept that comes up when you're doing voice or pronunciation exercices or - as in my case - taking accent lessons.
First of all, let's define "soft palate". Run the tip of your tongue (try not to do this in public) from the back of your top teeth towards the back of your throat. At one point, you'll find the palate lifts a bit and becomes spongy - rather than hard. That's the soft palate.
Some people are can raise and lower their soft palate very easily. Some of us struggle with this - because we have a "lazy" soft palate. One of the signs of a lazy soft palate is an unwanted nasality (which means honking sounds through your nose) on some sounds. One way to check for this is to say: "fill this up" and then repeat it but this time holding your nose. If both versions sound the same, then there's no nasality, if they sound different, then you may have a lazy soft palate issue.
It's reversible, to a point. They give you exercises: gegegegegegegegege GA, kekekekekekekekekekek KA, etc... to wake up the soft palate and hopefully allow you to make certain sounds the way God intended.
Believe it or not - and contrary to what some non-native speaking accent coaches will tell you, not all vowels are nasal in the General American Accent. Actually, surprisingly few are. So if you pronounce them with nasality, you're off the mark.
In many ways, an actor's training is closer to an anatomy class than people realise. It's often about bits of your body that don't behave like they should. And here's the thing, they're not a problem in everyday real life. No one would notice a thing. But when it comes to acting, these little imperfections can really show up like great big flaws. None of them require surgery - plastic or otherwise - only good old practice and training.
And here's the catch: as soon as you stop practicing... the problem comes back! The body naturally gravitates back to what it's always done. So there's no letting up. It's practice practice practice, day in and day out. Whether you're working or not.
I have a lazy soft palate. Gegegegegegegegegegege GA!

Friday, 19 June 2009

My First Interview

I had my first interview this morning.

Really? Cool! Who with? Vogue?

No.

Marie Claire?

No.

The Daily Telegraph?

No. I don't fiddle with my taxes or expenses.

Hello?

Yes I'm here.

Hello the magazine!

No.

FHM?

Oh please!

Who then?

Southwark News.

South what?

No. Me neither. It's a local paper. Part of Heinz's grassroot (read free) PR around their new "invisible bottle" advert for ketchup in which I play a starring role.

Oohh. Did you get to sit in a posh hotel lobby?

No. It was a phone interview. Had a call from a girl at the Heinz press office this morning, apologising for the phone interview not taking place last night as scheduled (they were meant to call between 5 and 9pm... you'd think that was a big enough window...) and wondering if I was free "now." As she'd interrupted my American Accent practice session, I thought I might as well go through with it "now."

Two minutes later, my phone rang again. The journo was on a bus. And only had a few pence credit left on her mobile. (I'm not making this up.) So it had to be pretty quick. She asked me how long I'd lived in the area (a long time), how long I'd been acting (not very long), how I got the part (my agent was doing his job), where I was from (kept it vague - she said I sounded South African), and finally, what I contributed to Southwark as an area (council tax). Then she said thank you, good bye. I said thank you and good bye. And she hung up.

It was overwhelmingly anticlimatic really. Plus I have PMT and a mysterious crink in my neck so I wasn't at my most sociable. Could I possibly have made more out of it? No.

Still, the Heinz ad is getting huge coverage. I've had an editor I know contact me about it, ex-colleagues from my advertising days, the manager at my local Virgin Active gym, a total stranger in my Pilates class, my favourite yoga teacher George etc... I'm just hoping the casting directors are seeing it too and making a mental note to cast me in EVERYTHING from now on.

Monday, 8 June 2009

You've got the face for a mineral water advert

I finally got an audition for a mineral water TV commercial, to run in France!!

Let's keep our excitement under wraps as... uh.... I don't have the job yet.

But it was promising. First of all, I've got the face for it. Healthy glowing skin even with minimal make-up, and a general healthy vibe. A face that says "I don't drink, smoke or do drugs, and I don't party like a wild animal. I eat healthy. And I go to bed early, me."

I also had a healthy glow because I had just walked to the casting session from home, at a good clip, in 40 minutes.

I flirted shamelessly with the boy at the front desk and he agreed that I deserved the part more that any of the other girls they were seeing that day. It made me feel good. Shame they won't be asking him for his opinion.

There were 2 girls waiting to go before me. One was a very tall, very drawn and thin (her knees were thinner than my wrists), and quite frankly rather unhealthy girl with lanky blond hair and sallow skin. I don't think she screamed "natural vitality and mineral water". The other girl had a nice athletic build (and a bottle of branded water in hand. Bitch). But she had a very hard rather agressive set to her face, that didn't look like friendly vitality to me.

Then it was my turn.

The character's name in the script was Isabelle. That's always a good sign and I made sure to mention it to the casting lady. I think she thought I was a bit eccentric.

The audition was quite tricky actually. Casting wanted me to be energetic but with a natural delivery straight to camera and show three different states of mind for the three bits of the scripts. To be delivered in fluent French.

BRING IT ON BABY! That last bit went fine. My French accent is flawless (afterall, I grew up there) but as I know I'm naturally quite theatrical and dramatic in my manner, a natural delivery is always a bit tricky (I usually end up doing "depressed") but I DID MY BEST.

They had me do it twice. They said "that's all for now." which I immediately assumed meant that I would be seeing them again and then I was out into the sunshine. And on a current of optimism and mineral water-induced well being, I walked all the way back home.

Oh, and I did all this with the dregs of a really bad cold I've been nursing since last Friday. What a pro!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Baby, you age well!

The text message beeped on my mobile. It was from my agent. They have this snazzy new system that alerts you to the time, address and contact for an audition, plus sends you more details by email. FAN - TAS - TIC.

It was for a feature film. E - VEN BET - TER.

With two up and coming casting directors. GREAT!!!

When I called my agent to confirm, we hit a snag.

"You're going to have to look a lot older."

"How much older?"

"45."

"Well, that's not too bad. At least it's not 80!"

"I told them that today's 45 look 30. I guess it all depends on how old the girl is that they'll be casting as your daughter. She's meant to be 25-30." (It turns out that my part was mean to be 45 -55.)

"Will do my best!"

"Try not wearing any make-up." (Unfortunately, I tend to look younger without any make-up. Tired and drawn, but younger. It's strong make-up that ages me.)

So here I am. As it happens, I slept badly and I've caught someone's cold so I'm definitely not looking my freshest.

The thing is, this is all good news. Thanks to my agent's doggedness, I'm getting in front of not one but two young and hungry casting directors.

Watch this space...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Full frontal or profile?

In case you're wondering what being an actor is about, it's mostly about going to lots of auditions (if you're lucky) and (most of the time) never hearing from them again. No two auditions are the same - ever - even if the same casting director is involved.

Sometimes they make you stand in a leotard (rare - unless you're a dancer).

Sometimes you have to improvise with another actor, or mime complicated scenes with no props or reference points.

And most of the time you have to do this to camera which is very unnatural.

As soon as I'm scheduled for an audition, I always assume that I've got the job. I know, it's weird. So it always comes as a surprise when I don't...The thing is, you only hear back if you do get the job. If you didn't, you're left to figure it out for yourself. I usually accept that I didn't get it when I see the ad on telly or the film being advertised. Then I discover who got the part I'd auditioned for and they usually look COMPLETELY different to me. And the cycle repeats itself.

Which brings me to the rummiest of auditions which I had yesterday. (Sorry, you've caught me in a Jeeves and Wooster moment.)

This was for a VERY BIG telecoms brand.

It was around the corner from where I live but I'd given myself plenty of time to find it (I'm a pro, me! Never be late, always arrive cool and collected and EARLY.)

This was a good thing because I must have stood outside the building for a good 5 minutes trying to find a way into it. (This included rattling locked doors and an aborted call to my agent.) Then I spotted the tiny doorbell.

Went in, was ushered through a large storage space (which 2 people were treating as an office), and down some industrial stairs into another storage space cum photo studio. It was very dimly lit. But there was a well appointed kitchen in a corner.

A young guy professing to know nothing about the project (but who presumably had been sent by the casting company) wrote my name on a piece of paper before handing it to me so I could fill out the form on the back of it. For some unknown reason (unknown to him as well as the rest of the universe) he had used a white board felt pen. It's 24 hours later and I'm still high from the fumes.

Anyway, I filled out the form and then after watching two very mumsy actresses having their pictures taken, it was my turn.

I had to face a light box, pretend I was sitting at a computer whilst the photographer took pictures of me in profile with various facial expressions (it was me making the faces, not him - in case you wondered.)

He took 4 shots. Maybe 5. And then that was it.

I raced back up the stairs, whilst another mumsy actress was ushered in, and then had to be let out because I couldn't figure out the childproof lock on the door.

This time, I really don't think I made the shortlist.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Is that a bolt cutter?

I wreaked havoc in the Virgin Active at Moorgate on Sunday.

I use a padlock for my locker and wear the key on my shoelace. Well, that's the theory. After many close calls (almost lost the key down the drain in the shower once) it finally happened. At the start of a 7K run on the treadmill.

My shoe lace came undone (in spite of a double knot) and the key went flying into the inner workings of the machine. I stopped, and on the off chance that it had slid under the treadmill, I prostrated myself several times, all around it, to peer underneath (it mostly looked like dust, but was hard to tell without my glasses...)

I didn't find the key. Undeterred, I remounted my treadmill, finished the 7K, and for good measure performed another round of prostrations.

No key.

The duty manager was a jolly South African. He found the whole incident rather funny. He too did a round of prostrations (to the concern of the member who was now using the treadmill).

No key.

So he went to get the bolt cutters.

Today I have an audition for some advertising posters for a big telecom company. The breakdown reads "mother, can be quirky but not too much (there's that word again), should have reasonable length hair as we will be using a wind machine..."

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Eat my Caviar Baby!!!

I think that eating nothing but chocolate and gorging on wraps and pitta bread and all things carby and beige is particularly reasonable and well within the rules. As is drinking myself to death. Sleeping with 5 men at a time (it helps if they are used to playing a team contact sport - well apparently.) And not paying my taxes. I think that the rules clearly state that what is yours in mine and what is mine is mine as well. And the tax office can suck my proverbial big fat one. I'm gonna claim for every fart and belch and claim double during bank holidays.

I also think that it is perfectly reasonable to be living at the tax-payer's expense. As is swinging from a claimed-for crystal chandelier like something out of Eyes Wide Shut, or rolling around in (fresh) horse manure - naked.

And poor people who can't afford these things should stop whingeing and can earn some dough by coming around to clean my swimming pool, or my moat. Their choice.

The serial revelations courtesy of The Telegraph would be hilarious if they weren't so horrifically predictable and bang on stereotype. The subtle irony of the revelations is inspired: who would have thought that expense claims could be bi-partisan and reflect social background so accurately? Based on The Telegraph's report, Labour MP's are big on middleclass pre-occupations: buying and selling property. Tory MP's on the other hand - presumably because they already live in the family mansion - are more likely to claim for crystal chandeliers, moat cleaning, tennis courts, swimming pools and horse manure (the latter presumably to fling at would-be trespassing ramblers).

Of course, if you're the Queen, you're happy to eat out of tupperware containers. But that's breeding for you. Not something money can buy. (Not to be confused with Honours... just look at the House of Lords.)

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Billy Connolly Complex

Just got back from a lovely pub lunch with a delicious Glaswegian called Doug. He sounded like a very posh and softly spoken Billy Connolly. I bet he sings a hell of a lot better than Billy too. I got fantastic career advice and a free meal so didn't think it was appropriate to ask him to sing for me.

Maybe next time...

Earlier that day. Old Street Tube, southbound Northern Line platform:

"I work for a research company. Here's my ID. Would you mind answering a short questionnaire whilst you wait for your train?" The round cheeked bespectacled African man looked at me expectantly.

I towered over him in my bee shoes (platform laced stillettos in black and yellow leather which Sally my voice teacher used to call my "Kill Bill" shoes). I was early for my lunch date so I said "Sure!" We moved down the platform to a quieter spot and he started asking me questions about my journey. I was fascinated: he was scrolling down and tapping the multiple-choice answers onto a screen with a stylus. Very cool. I wanted one.

It all started quite well and I found myself answering quite truthfully. Afterall, I've worked in research and planning and I know how difficult it can be to get respondents to complete a questionnaire. Then a train pulled into the station. We hadn't finished the survey but to his great surprise (and delight) I told him I was in no hurry and happy to finish the questionnaire and wait for the next train.

That's when it all went a bit pear shaped. In spite of my best intentions. I don't know whether it was ego, or madness, or what I call my Social Tourettes: this is when I start speaking out loud the running commentary in my head which is often completely inappropriate and usually embarrassing for all parties.

"Do you work full time, part time, or are you unemployed."

"Full time" (said the actress rather optimistically...)

"What postcode do you live in?"

A sudden whiff of paranoia made me give my old postcode rather than my current one. (Incidentally, why do Americans call it zip code?)

"Who is the primary income earner in your household and what is his/her occupation?"

This triggered total and utter fiction. "I am. I'm a manager." (What?)

For the first time the little man looked crestfallen as he scrolled down the menu of multiple choice answers - my answer did not conform. I couldn't bear to let him down.

"Do you need more detail?" I volunteered.

He lit up like a little Chinese lantern on Bastille Day. "Do many people report to you?"

"Yes."

"How many?"

"Twenty". (What?!!! Why twenty?)

This seemed to satisfy him as he tapped away on his little screen.

So now I was a full time manager with 20 people reporting in to me, and I'd gone from living in North London to South London (which either way, beats living in West London! This is no reverse snobbism: it's based on experience. I used to live in West London. In a rather posh part of Chiswick actually. Until one night, when the firebombing of our downstair's neighbours car by his drug dealer and the subsequent setting on fire of the horse chestnut outside our front door (and only exit) convinced me it was time to move. Forever. OK?)

Anyway, back to my little man and his questionnaire. He asked me another question but he had quite a strong accent and this time I simply couldn't make out the key words. I asked him to repeat it. Three times! And then - feeling too embarrassed to ask him to repeat it a fourth time - I just took a wild punt (I could see that the only possible answers on his screen were yes and no): "Yes."

He tapped the yes button. Then he pulled out some laminated forms.

"Would you please point at the best description of your ethnic type."

I looked down the list and pointed at "white: other". (The other choices under white were "English" and "Irish"). I heard myself comment out loud: "I guess there are several shades of white!" Luckily I caught my social Tourettes in time so I didn't add "you should add green to the list and see how many people tick that!"

"Would you please point at the best description of your religion." Under Christian it said "this includes Church of England, Protestant, Catholic." As opposed to? The bleeding obvious? But then I've heard that many English people who do not follow any form of organised religion lump themselves under CofE as some sort of administrative classification. So I pointed at "Christian" rather than saying "Other: I'm a Sufi".

Then he beamed: "That's it, we're done! Thank you very much for your time."

We parted. My train pulled in shortly after. As the doors closed and the train gathered speed, I saw that my little man was already interviewing another passenger. The thing is, he was really very good at it. He had a lovely manner. He was warm yet professional. He made you want to participate. He was fantastic. He had a real talent for what he was doing. I wish I'd had a chance to tell him that. It's not very often that you come across people who excel at what they do but remain somehow unaware of it. It put me in a lovely mood for my pub lunch - which as I mentioned earlier - was a big success.

My only regret is that instead of following my new Scottish friend's choice of ale and meat pie I plumped for the chick pea salad. Ah well, next time!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Let's do the McDonalds.

No need to check your well-thumbed copy of the Kamasutra. Or worry about my waistline (leave that to me). I have an audition for a McDonald's TV commercial this afternoon.

"Quirky looking Mum. She MUST look like she would take her kids to McDonalds. So not too posh. Casual." reads the breakdown.

I should be able to pull it off. Especially the quirky looking bit.

Not sure how the fact I'm going to be in a Heinz advert at the same time will go down with them though...

Quarter pounder with cheese and some large fries. And an extra large full fat coke. With a straw. God, even the sense memory of their plastic trays makes me salivate!

Do I feel like I'm being left behind in the "breaking into acting" race? (I hadn't realised until now that it was a race...) One mate is auditioning with the producers of Star Trek, another is taking her new one woman show to the Ed Fringe, another is re-doing her one woman show from Ed in London for the 2nd time. What about me?

Well, what about me? I've written to tons of people. I've asked Mike Newell a question which made him think I was a lazy dickhead of an actress. I'm pen pals with Julian Fellowes. Charles Dance wrote back to me. I give good face in my photos. And I'm probably going on hols to San Francisco in a few months. So what about me?

I want MORE. And I want it NOW! What do I WANT? I don't know, but I know it's something DIFFERENT. From what? From what I have RIGHT NOW.

It's amazing how little ground gets covered when willfullness is at the wheel. It's more like, well, going in circles.

It's amazing how little happens when you THINK about it instead of DOING something about it.

So, off to my audition, off my bum, and let's ride into the sunset singing at the top of my lungs that dwarf work ditty from Snowwhite.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Hey, I remember you!

"I remember you!" It was the nice lady from the post office as I handed her my 12 enveloppes. She smiled as she checked the mailing addresses.

"I'm afraid I'm not writing to Pierce Brosnan today!"

"I'm just checking to see if there's anyone I know. Anyone I know of..." She corrected herself.

Sadly there wasn't. I think it would have made her day.

Friday, 17 April 2009

wear them nano pants!

Nano pants. The latest Japanese invention. Apparently they work like very fine sand paper... but made out of nylon.

So we have nylon pants (that's underpants for you American English speakers) that... well, shave off inches.

The catch?

You have to wear them for 40 days in a row. The reviewer was assuming that you had to wear the same pair for 40 days which sounds rather smelly and disgusting and quite gross actually.

Yuck.

So I'm assuming you have to buy 40 pairs - which makes good business sense for the lovely people at Nano Pants Inc.

What exactly does it trim? Ehr.... like what area. Tummy? Good. Bottom? Right. Hips? Yippee! But what about the undercarriage? Have they thought that one through?

... Maybe they're crochless panties.

Now you're talking!

So if any of you ladies (I'm assuming ladies...) are brave enough to try them, please let me know how you get on...

I'm going to hold off for now. No nano pants for me today...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Eat my Chip!

"Oh, look! There's a cat. I love cats on camera. Let's get the cat in the frame!" exclaimed Dougal. And off he went to grab the cat.

It was about 10:30 at night, with a dozen of us standing around in a really sweet lady's kitchen. I was the only on eating. Chips. In my socks. We were shooting a commercial. Dougal was the director.

"I don't think the cat wants to." "Look! It's already wandered off." "I don't think it's a good idea." The rest of the crew desperately tried to derail Dougal's feline plot.

"It will look so good with the cat wondering through. I promise you! It'll be fantastic!" Dougal muffled voice reached us from the front garden.

Stony silence from the crew. Footsteps. "Oh fine! But it would have been great!" Dougal returned, slightly crestfallen, and stood next to the camera, starring into the monitor. Soon he was beaming again.

As I sat there, waiting for the last minute adjustments, I realised that I was in the presence of an extraordinary creative mind. This guy is going to be one of our great directors. He still has the enthusiastic optimism of child. His ideas are pure genius and fantasy. His name is Douglas Wilson.

"Quiet on set!" The first assistant bellowed. And we got back to the job at hand.

Friday, 3 April 2009

I got a letter from Charles Dance

There it was. In the mail box. Waiting for me in my SSAE.

Remember my big mail-out from a few weeks ago? One of the companies I wrote to belongs to Pierce Brosnan (to the delight of the post office lady), and another belongs to Charles Dance (she didn't get to see that one because I'd already bought the stamps).

And he wrote back!

A lovely note saying he'd passed on my details to the appropriate person and wishing me well: "keep at it and good luck - especially in these trying times." It was handwritten. Lovely handwriting. Fountain pain. Black ink.

A proper letter. Not a form letter.

Very old school and very charming. No wonder he had Sophia Miles on his arm!

Anyway. Off to yoga and pilates in preparation for my Heinz Tomato Sauce (Ketchup) shoot tomorrow. More on that next week!

I should be so lucky!

Last night I met up with some long lost friends.

Classmates from my years at the Lycee (that's High School or Secondary School to you non-Continentals). These people were my best friends - before we all spread our wings and disappeared around the world.

I'd lost touch with everybody. I'm good at that. I don't like looking back as a rule, I'd rather move forward. A bit like notebooks. I like a pristine new notebook. The promise the unsullied pages hold. Old photo albums make me cringe. I don't hoard stuff.

And then through Facebook (I know, I know) we slowly found each other again. And a bunch of us met up in London last night (having travelled from Autralia, Denmark, Holland, France, and Norway to be there - and a few of us from London). In a nice little unassuming Turkish restaurant behind Warren Street.

I didn't know what to expect. Mostly I worried that I wouldn't fit in. What would they think of me now? How would I deal with plates of Mezze? The element of surprise was removed thanks to profile pictures on Facebook. Strangely, very few of us looked any different. And it was like no time had gone by at all. We picked up where we'd left off really. And the food was fine - although I overdid it slightly (a lot) on the pitta bread front...

Which is a sign of true friendship. (Picking up where we left off... not stuffing my face with pitta bread.)

So how did it go? It was lovely! Catching-up is nice. It's safe too. Like watching action films on the telly. You can get involved with the story but you won't get hurt.

They are really the most wonderful group of people! I'd forgotten how warm and generous they all were, and how much they seem to care about me. I felt welcomed and loved. And more importantly liked. Because you can love people but not like them...

I discovered that most of them have children. Around the 6-7 year old mark. Like they suddenly decided to fall pregnant at the same time without realising it. Like long lost twins! Synchronised biological clocks. That made me feel a lot younger than the rest. As if being parents made them adults, whereas I was still - what? - an adolescent? Hardly! So what then? A child? Maybe... more like someone with her whole life ahead of her. Which is the definition of a child... but has nothing to do with age. It's about the opportunity. And freedom.

I felt like I had made the right life choices. That I was in a good place. AM in a good place. That I wouldn't change anything for the world. Because every step I have taken has led me to where I am today, this morning. And it is a good place. Sitting on the red sofa, looking out the large window, typing my blog, listening to the building work going on across the street, watching the morning mist burning up in the sunshine.

I am a lucky girl, born under a lucky star. My life is good. And I can step out into the sunshine, my head held up high, and a smile dancing on my lips. Today is a lucky day, as every day is, in my lucky life.

Now - off to my meeting before I break into a Kylie song and dance...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I'm all teeth...

Last night I bleached my teeth again.

Excuse me?

Dental bleaching. I know it sounds like S&M for dental hygienists but it's not. It's as close as I'm getting to cosmetic surgery. The thing is, I had my teeth professionally whitened a year ago and as part of the monthly upkeep, I have to wear bleach filled dental trays overnight.

It's not as bad as it sounds.

It's worse.

I have to psyche myself up for the task. I take painkillers: oral and topical. Then I put on these bleach filled plastic trays molded to match my top and bottom teeth. The bleach comes in a gel, which has a sicky lemon taste. Then I will myself to sleep knowing that I'll wake up in the middle of the night from the pain in my teeth. It starts off with a dull ache and develops into a mind grabbing jabbing pain.

In the morning, I take the trays out of my mouth and use Sensodyne toothpaste. (The one they advertise with "normal people" talking about how sensitive there teeth are...) It's pink and tastes gross (everyone knows toothpaste should taste minty). But it does the trick! The pain subsides.

Until I have something to eat. Or to drink. Hot. Or cold. Or at room temperature.

My teeth start to ache again.

It's an odd type of pain in that it feels slightly disassociated from my body. A bit like saying that the ends of your hair ache. Are you with me?

I become incredibly sensitive to noise. Because it goes straight to my teeth. Rustling paper, metal on metal... it all feels like someone's running their nails across a black board.

The ache lasts all day. Although it usually subsides in time for dinner, I know I have a few days of intermittent jabs of sensitivity to look forward to.

As you can imagine this does not make me particularly relaxed or sociable. It puts me on edge. Literally. Short fuse and all. I call that state of being: toothy. As in, "I'm a bit toothy today."

The thing is. It's not the discomfort that I dread. It's the memory of the discomfort that gets to me: knowing what the next 24 hours will hold.

Wait. That's not all.

There's more to it than that. I've also stopped drinking tea. And coffee. And eating anything too yellow or red or brown. So I eat a lot of hummus. And no chocolate. It's a bit like the voice diet (see the Notes from the Fridge blog) but colour based.

Am I insane? No.

Driven? Yes, but not sure where to.

So is it worth it? I think so. As an actress it makes sense to have a good smile. Especially in the American market. (Oh, I didn't know you'd been working in the US. I haven't.)

Here's to the next 10 hours of toothiness and pearly whites!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I'm not licking that.

I had two auditions today. But first, let me tell you what happened at the post office.

I was back in there today. (Sometimes it feels like this mailing project will never end.) I had 3 identical letters for the US, 3 for Ireland, and 1 for France. I was served by a dead ringer for the character in the latest Royal Mail advertising campaign. You know (for those of you who live in the UK), the one with the inept employees who monkey about in their eternally empty post office... when they're not serving Joan Collins.

He's an unpleasant, unattractive character of undetermined age (I'm talking about the guy who served me this morning). He's trouble. A lethal combination of limited intelligence and power derived from the Royal Mail Book of Rules.

What normally happens is that you weigh the enveloppes and they print out a self-adhesive postage label. Quick, painless, efficient.

"I'm not putting the stamps on for you. You'll have to do it yourself." "Excuse me?" "You'll have to put the stamps on yourself." "But I don't need stamps. Aren't you going to print some postage labels?" "Not for that many enveloppes." "But there's only 7, and they're all the same size. 4 going to Europe. Three to the US."

That was my first mistake. I had engaged with the angry potato. Tried to reason with it.

"We don't do labels for that many envelopes. You'll have to put the stamps on yourself." "But your colleagues do labels all the time." "Well that's not the rule." "Fine!" (Me in my best passive-aggressive mode.)

So we did stamps. He, metting them out at snail pace. Me, licking them onto my enveloppes at high speed with mounting PMT-fuelled fury. I could have killed him.

As I inserted my credit card into the terminal, I tried to make amends. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm a bit frustrated (!) because your colleagues do it differently." "Move to the side please to lick your stamps, you're holding up the line and I could be serving the next customer." I bristled."My card is still being processed so I'm not holding anything up..." And them my parting shot: "Printing some postage labels would have been faster... "

As I said, I could have killed him. Instead, I'm going to blank him. From now on, I'll pass my turn in the queue to avoid being served by him. He is an ugly stain on The Public Service.

Anyway, brimming with barely restrained fury, I took myself to my first audition of the day. Blah blah blah. 7 hours later. I'm home, watching "To Save the King" - with the inimmitable Ian Richardson. It's part of the "House of Cards" trilogy. If you've never seen it, do check it out. It's brilliant.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Me fat? In your dreams!

I had a dream last night in which a woman told me that I was fat. Don't know what Karl Jung would have to say about it but it gave me a nasty shock.

It was one of those hyper-realistic dreams... I had joined some sort of dance/theatre troup and this woman - who had a very skinny little girl with her - said "with all that exercise, you'll be losing some weight and you won't look so podgy." "I look podgy? Do you think I'm fat?" "Yes."

In the dream, I actually went to change into more flattering clothes to show the woman that it wasn't that bad. But I woke up before I had a chance to show her.

I think it must have something to do with seeing my parents this weekend. Woman with little girl: my mother. She has a knack for commenting on my appearance within the first few minutes of meeting up. Sometime it's open. Sometimes it's in code. But I get the message every single time.

Now it looks like she's reaching me in my dreams!

But then I woke up, it took me a few seconds to realise it had all been a dream. That no one had called me fat to my face, and that there was a good chance no one would at least for today. What a relief!!

It's reassuring to know that in spite of the horrible and dramatic events going on in the world these days, the worst nightmare I can conjure up is one in which I get called podgy...

Here's to a skinny day and much much happiness and serenity.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Is he the one?

"Is that the one I know?" asked the friendly black lady at the post office. "I'm sorry?" (Me, struggling to balance an oversized envelope on the post office scales). "Is that the one?" she insisted, pointing at the address label. "Who?" "That one!"

She was holding 5 envelopes which I had just handed over to her. They were the last of a mail out of over 100... I peered over the counter at the label. It read "Pierce Brosnan". The fog cleared."Yes," I replied, "he is the one." She looked suitably impressed: "some famous friends you've got there!" What on earth did she think I was sending? Oversized invitations to a tea party?

I could have left it at that, and basked in the reflection of her admiration. The thing is, I don't know Pierce Brosnan (although he studied at the Drama Centre at the same time as my acting teacher - so I can claim one degree of separation). He happens to own a production company and I was writing to him in relation to that. What's the equivalent of cold calling for letters? Cold writing? So in the spirit of truth and humility, I told her."Ah... you're a film maker!" There was still a strong note of admiration in her tone. "No. I'm an actress." "Oh...."

Was it disappointment? At what? That I was an actress rather than a filmmaker? That I was obviously not famous enough for her to recognise me? That I was too old or ugly to fit her idea of what an actress should look like? These thoughts raced through my mind as I put my debit card back into my wallet along with the receipt that she handed me. Then I walked out into the sunshine.

And that - as they say - was that!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Do you really like me this way?

I was watching a DVD of my performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last summer. Seeing yourself from the outside - as it were - is always a revelation. Do I really look like this? Do I do that with my face? Is that how I sound?

Goodness grief!

All I can say is, if I wasn't me and I met myself, I don't think I'd like me very much. Which begs the question: how come I have so many friends? (Even if I'm not counting everyone of Facebook.) They must like me for who I am as a person, not for how I come across. It's reassuring in a way...

On the other hand, my agent says my face is my selling card. Oh dear!!

Most of us feel that we would like to be a bit different from who we are - at least some of the time. Apparently even big stars with objectively great looks have off days... So here's a list of changes I'd make if I could:

1. Be taller, at least 5' 10" (I'm not sure how tall that actually is, as I grew up with the metric system, but it's a good 5 or 6 inches taller). 2. Be blond? Or a red head with green eyes. Or be black, or Asian. 3. Be good at remembering people's names. Anything else? 4. Be really relaxed and chilled. 5.Have an operatic voice. 6. Be an experienced horseback rider and have a black belt in martial arts (all of them). 7.Weigh less.

Ok, so some of them I can do something about, some I can't - at least not until they have some major advances in genetics. Or until we can survive without actually consuming food.

In the meantime? Avoid doing auto-biographical shows. And be kinder to self. And more appreciative of all those friends of mine who stick with me in spite of my glaring flaws and imperfections!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Spring is the time for love

Spring has come early! (I know the Met insist that Spring starts on March 1st, but I know better. It starts on the vernal equinox - March 21st.)

It's Friday the 13th and here in London the sun is shining in a hazy sky. The temperature is up up up! The air feels soft and smells sweet - full of the promise of buds and new growth. It's saying, start afresh, start anew! Do something different and exciting! Surprise yourself! Shed your winter coat! Indulge that spring in your step!

There's bird song, and the first insects buzzing around. It's light earlier and for longer. And in two weeks' time, the clocks will be going back!

Take a deep breath, take it all in. All of it! Feel happy, glorious and free. Like recess in the playground in between lessons.

Spring holds the promise of summer holidays and sunshine, the sea side and sand castles, and steamed mussels with white wine and garlic.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But anticipation may be the new reality. It's doesn't cost a thing, it doesn't tie you down, it won't disappoint. So go ahead, anticipate everything! The whole pastry window display at Maison Bertaux in Soho, all the cup cakes at Magnolia Bakery, a shiny new car, Louboutin shoes, a whole new designer wardrobe in size 0 (you'll fit into it because you've anticipated the cupcakes without actually eating them). Anticipate holidays abroad (pick up the brochure or if you want to go all out: buy the travel guidebook).

The world is your oyster! Out with the old, in with the anticipation of the new! To new beginnings! And a fantabulous weekend...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

French accents are sexy

I have an audition today. For a corporate film (it's filmed role play for training purposes). And I've been asked to do a French accent to play the role of "Sophie".

This is ironic. I can speak French like a native, I can speak English like a native, but speaking English with a French accent doesn't come naturally to me. So I have to put it on. And make sure I don't sound like "Allo Allo".

So, that's today's challenge. Oh la la...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

You make love like an ugly girl.

I've always had this theory that the plainer one is, the more of an effort one should make. I'm sure it's not entirely PC or moral for that matter but it's probably an evolutionary trick (because if only beautiful people got to pair up and mate then by now we'd all be gods and goddesses!).

Example 1: crossing the road. I don't know about you, but I always wait to make sure that car (a) has seen me, and (b) is slowing down. And then I always give a friendly wave as I walk across, just in case.

Example 2: being grateful for the attention. If asked on a date, always always say yes! It's a bit like auditions, you may not like all the jobs you go up for but you never know when the next one will come along. (Speaking of which, I have a casting for a corporate ad tomorrow, to play "Sophie, a very attractive French business woman. Must speak English with a French accent.")

Example 3: give it your all and more in bed. Afterall, they can't see you in the dark and all they'll remember is what a fantastic time they had. (They always fantasise and imagine you're someone else anyway.)

Example 4: be very very nice. Personality IS everything. Actually, this one applies to ugly and beautiful people. I know a guy who is objectively quite attractive. Problem is, he's self-obsessed and not very generous, and really tight with his money. A bit of a good looking jerk really. Can you imagine what he's like in bed? (especially with the lights off!)

Whether you're plain, it pays to be nice. If you're gorgeous, make sure you keep the lights on...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Will you still love me when I'm old?

In less than 6 hours, I will be a whole year older. It's like travelling through a worm hole.

I've had a busy last day as it were. My own personal new year's eve. Packing in as much as I could before the new dawn. Work on my website, work on the script, background research for the script, shopping for my birthday dinner (I'm not cooking it), shopping for Friday's dinner party (it's not a birthday party so don't feel bad). And reconnecting with long lost friends from the Lycee on Facebook.

There's nothing like a bunch of other people your own age to make you realise how different your life could have been. Most of my school friends are married, most have children (at least 2), most do not live in their home country (I went to an international school). None of them seem to be actors. Some look the same they did back then. Some look completely different. Some haven't aged at all. Some are doing exactly what I expected them to do. Some have mellowed. Some still have the same crushes. Funny. Underneath it all, people don't change.

The other ironic thing I've noticed is that with time, we mellow, and time and distance create a bond. Sometimes we're just glad to reconnect with a time in our lives when we were full of hormones and dreams. I went to a very special school, run by a very special very eccentric very individual and dedicated man. His name was Dr. Scherer. And my class was quite exceptional. Some fantastically talented individuals.And great teachers. It's just so nice to reconnect with some of that. A nice birthday present as it were.

Here's to tomorrow and a new day, a new year.

Here's to new beginnings