Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Woman with a movie camera.

This week I've devised a little movie game, instead of the regular blog, because I've gone filming and because I love movies. Here are some stills from movies with a line underneath from each one, but they're all mixed up. All you have to do is match the right line to the right movie. I put the answers at the end. So, you get the beer, I'll get the popcorn, and I'll see you back here in the foyer in a minute, or in a week, or whenever. 

1. Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?

2. The lunch box has landed.


3. Alright, I'll jump first.

4. Let's get the flock out of here.

5. I feel the need, the need for speed.

6. Show me everything.

7. Listen. Listen to the sea.

8. Are you talkin' to me?

9. Is he a martyr or is he a fucking jalfrezi?

10. There's no place like home.

11. Aren't men full of shit?

12. I'll have what she's having.

13. Thank you for coming back to me.

14. We'll always have Paris.

15. Rosebud.

16. And a hundred baby spiders came out.

17. I just feel so alone, even when I'm surrounded by other people.

18. Do you have sex often? Hardly ever, maybe three times a week.

19. Mes Ĺ“illets fleurissent.

Love E x


P.S. Is he a martyr or is he a fucking jalfrezi? from Four Lions, has got to be my favourite line ever.

Alien (6), Shirley Valentine (11), Rebecca (7), Manon du Sources (19), Casablanca (14), The Graduate (1), Lost in Translation (17), Brief Encounter (13), Lethal Weapon (4), Annie Hall (18), Blade Runner (16), Top Gun (5), The Full Monty (2), Taxi Driver (8), Four Lions (9), When Harry Met Sally (12), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (3), The Wizard of Oz (10), Citizen Kane (15).

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A stupid list.

We all do stupid things from time to time, but I excel at it. On the plus side it's nice to have something to excel at. Here are a few of the stupid things I’ve done over the years.

1982 - leaving a nightclub in the south of France and walking the coast road back to our mobile home at 1.00 in the morning, alone. Let’s just say I had a close encounter of the groping kind, but on the plus side I got away.

1984 - going for a summer job interview at The University of York and flirting with the student sitting next to me waiting to go in, getting up and heading for the door still flirting, walking straight into a filing cabinet. On the plus side I got the job, and he didn't.

The University of York, full of stupid cabinets.

1986 - boarding a train from Bordeaux to Lisbon expecting to arrive at 8.00 in the evening and arriving at 8.00 next morning instead. Consequently spending the worst night of my life sitting bolt upright, sandwiched between two Germans, with nothing to eat, not even a sandwich. On the plus side I got to practice my German. "Sie stinken, aber ich glaube ich liebe Sie."

1988 - going ahead and buying a studio flat in Streatham despite some City guy telling my dad in the lift of the Lloyd's building that there was going to be a property crash and I shouldn’t. On the plus side… hang on... nope, there definitely isn't a plus side to that. Streatham is a shithole and I was stuck there eight years.

A great glass elevator.

1994 - directing a shoot wearing a brand new pair of GAP chinos (it was 1994) with the size label still stuck on my arse. The cameraman was kind, though, he did tell me, after we wrapped. On the plus side they weren't plus size, they were US size 4.

2003 - taking the boys to fencing class for the first time and thinking the teacher's first name was Salle. On the plus side I never let him know.

2004 - taking the bins out in my dressing gown on a rainy day and getting shut out. On the plus side I got to bond with the neighbours, and learnt I could crawl through a cat flap.

2005 - being so hungover I had to get a friend to take two boys to school while I violently wretched over the loo and peed myself at the same time, with the toddler clinging to my skirt, anxiously repeating, “Mummy, okay?” On the plus side I haven't done that since.

2008 - telling my wide-eyed little son that the tooth fairy would come in the night and put a shiny new coin under his pillow, then forgetting all about it. On the plus side that tooth fairy is sneaky, she then hid it under the sheets and said it was there the whole time.

A fairy.

2012 - contradicting Lorraine when I went on Lorraine on ITV. My one and only time on live television and I was petrified. I was introduced as the mother who regretted having kids because it killed her career because of some stupid thing I’d 'written' for the Daily Mail. The daggers behind her eyes when I corrected her will stay with me forever. She’s not real by the way. She’s animatronic. Her back is hollow. There’s a whole team pulling levers. On the plus side they paid me £50 (I’m clutching at straws here).

Lorraine Kelly - actually made of cardboard.

2012 - ‘writing’ a thing for the Daily Mail about women, careers, and being a mother. On the plus side they paid quite a bit more than £50. 

2013 - taking Youngest to the opticians for the first time and asking him if the glasses were helping. They were the frames. The lenses hadn't been made up yet. In my defence no one in our family had glasses before. On the plus side it's given me something really stupid to put on this list.

2013 - telling a hot shot literary agent who invited me to visit him at his office that I would write a synopsis and a couple of chapters but not the whole thing because someone told me this is what you should do. This is not what you should do. You should keep your mouth shut and smile winsomely, especially if you're a woman. On the plus side I now have a lovely agent, who is a woman.

2014 - telling another hot shot literary agent I couldn’t speak to her on the phone as arranged because Eldest had a high temperature and I had to drive him to his A-Level English examination. She never did get back to me. On the plus side he got an A*.

Now - wasting time thinking it was stupid always putting my family top of my list, when it wasn’t.

Love E x


P.S. Don't be stupid, remember there’s (nearly) always a plus side.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Picture postcards.

Three keys.

Wednesday. I'm standing in the hall. It's nearly two in the morning. There's a key in the front door. It bursts open and I burst into tears. The person in the doorway stops dead in his tracks. "Er," he says.

"Oh my God," I sob. "I thought you were dead!"

The person in the doorway (who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy) takes two long strides across the hall and throws his arms around me. "I’m here," he says, "I’m not dead."

This makes my sobbing worse. The two of us sit at the bottom of the stairs as I sob into his shoulder. "I could kill you." I say, sobbing.

"It's not my fault," he says. "I didn't have credit on my phone. You never give me any money."

Another key. The front door opens again. It's another of my sons, who shall also remain nameless. "Jesus, mate," he says, addressing his brother. "I’ve come all the way back from my thing because of you."

"I’m sorry," I say, through my tears. "I needn’t have rung you. He’s alive."

"I can see that," he says, closing the door. "Well, that's what really matters, I guess. Just."

Almost immediately, a third key. The door opens again. "Jesus Christ," says Husband, wheeling his bike into the hall, "my hands are frozen."

"It’s okay," I say, "he’s here."

"So I see," he says.

Next day I receive a Facebook message from the son in question, which reads: "This is your daily reminder that I am alive."

A river runs through it.

Road to ruin.

Thursday. I’m on a recce in Richmond, looking for a car park at the end of a long road leading down to the river. "You have arrived at your destination," says the sat nav. But which one? I'm uncertain. It's a dead end, with three private car parks to choose from. I ring the person I've arranged to see. "I’m coming right down," he says.

I wait in the car, the engine idling, staring out of the window, watching three young men walking towards me down the middle of the road.  "Elizabeth?" one of them says, when he reaches the window on the driver's side. 

The glass glides down. "Hello," I say. We all shake hands through the empty space. 

"You just need to park here," he says, pointing at a narrow bay between two concrete posts.

I’m not bad at parking. In fact I’m great at parking, especially parallel parking, even my husband says so. But being watched by three young men as I manoeuvre into a tiny space by a river is nerve-wracking to say the least. Take it slow and steady, I think, and it will be fine. And I do. And it is. Phew.

The recce is great. The people are wonderful. The location is stunning. The sky is blue, and cloudless. As I’m leaving I take one last photograph. "Er," says the receptionist, walking up to me.

"Don't worry," I say, "you're not in it."

"It’s not that," she says. "You didn't put your hand brake on and your car rolled back a bit. A few of our guys went out and put bricks under the wheels. I think you met them before."

Portrait by an artist.

Pictures of people.

Friday. We’re at the National Portrait Gallery to see the Picasso portraits, just me and Eldest. I’ve booked lunch in the restaurant at the very top as a treat, just for me and Eldest. But there’s not much time between our timed slot for the exhibition and the lunch reservation. We end up rushing past the portraits at such speed they look more Jackson Pollock than Pablo Picasso. 

"Maybe we can pop back after lunch?" says Eldest. 

"I doubt it," I say, "they’re pretty strict about that sort of thing."

In the restaurant we’re served by an extremely friendly waitress. "Oh!" she says, as I place my order. "I completely thought you were American!"

"Me?" I say.

"Yeah," she says, "I think it’s the boots."

Small illustration.

When we get back downstairs after our food - which was delicious - I blag us back into the exhibition by saying we're going in the gift shop. After snooping around the portraits a bit longer, we’re approached by two of the staff. "Excuse me, madam," says one of them, "but do you have tickets?"

"Er," I say.

"It’s okay," says the other member of staff, a woman. "Let them stay. They were in here before. I remember the lady's boots."

Love E x


P.S. I bought a postcard in the gift shop because the mugs were twenty quid. Twenty quid!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Lotus position.

Virgin on the ridiculous.

Bare ladies. There are loads of them at Virgin Active in Streatham. They are in the changing rooms and the sauna. One of them, a large, bare, elderly lady, attempts to climb up to the bench above me in the sauna where I'm warming up after my swim, and slips on the way. The resulting view I’m afforded will haunt me for some time. My brother tells me that’s nothing. He was once in a sauna with a naked friend whose limbs locked in the lotus position. He was taken to hospital, where they carried him through A&E in nothing but a towel, looking like half a person, the bottom bit missing. He was right as rain after a shot of muscle relaxant, though. That story's probably not true but it had me laughing so much I was bent double.

Getting warm.

It’s not that I’m shy about nudity. As I've explained before I grew up in a liberal (and Liberal) household where we were taught that the naked body is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just that the nudity in the changing rooms at Virgin Active, Streatham takes me by surprise because I’m new to it. I didn’t join as a New Year’s resolution, I joined about a month ago because I was fed up of Streatham pool. Don’t get me wrong, the pool at Streatham pool is second to none, it’s just everything around it that's crap. Conversely the pool at Virgin Active is a bit crap, while everything around it is second to none. Dirty showers and rude staff got me down at Streatham pool, but being admonished by a teacher gave me a final reason to quit. "If you’re not out of that cubicle dressed in two minutes you miss playtime!" he yelled, rapping his knuckles on my door. When I emerged I was in the middle of Year 6. "Please, sir," I said, "could I be excused to go home now?" As I left he winked at me. I don’t know which was more unsettling: the threat of punishment or the flirting.

Nudity aside it's working out fine at Virgin Active. I like that I get towels and don’t have to take one, even if they are the size of postage stamps. I like that the shower spray is constant and not intermittent. The padlock for my locker is a bit of an issue. The other day I reset it by accident. Nothing will make you feel so vulnerable as standing with nothing between you and the rest of south London but a minuscule towel, with everything you need entombed in a locker before you. 

Hurt locker.

Fortunately the bare lady I encountered in the sauna was now dressed and offered help. She went away briefly, to return with the biggest bolt cutter I’ve ever seen in my life. Since then I've bought a new lock. But I’ve taken to keeping my bag poolside, where I can keep a weather eye on it all the same.

Lady in the van.

Rage. There you are bubbling along nicely, the next minute it's spewing forth like lava. We all have it, just some people keep a lid on it better than others.

No one rowed in our house over Christmas. It was goodwill in Tooting and peace to all men, women, partners, children, grandparents, and mothers-in-law. Which is perhaps why, the very next day after the parentals had gone (my sister-in-law's name for them), Husband and I started yelling at each other for practically no reason. Think about it: there’s only so much nice you can be. It ran out.

We settled on a walk on Wimbledon Common. The boys wouldn't come. "Just you and me, then," said Husband, "and you can drive." "Ok," I said, "but the choice of music is mine." I can’t drive without music. To me they go together like cheese and.... well, crackers, obviously.

Wombling free.

This raised the issue of the broken Mac disc drive in my office. I moaned about this, again. Husband reckoned I could sort it out for myself, again. I reckoned I’d done quite enough sorting, again. Barely out of first gear down the road, he was shouting and I was shouting. Out of nowhere I was swerving toward the pavement, telling him if he insisted on having this stupid argument about the music-syncing again he could forget the walk together and walk home by himself instead, which he did.

Of course I didn’t really want him to get out of the car. There’s always that split second when you do something or say something you can’t quite believe you just did or said. Arguments are like that, every time. You want to reverse, rewind, erase. You can’t.

Later I prepared dinner and we all ate together. Husband kindly asked if I’d like a glass of wine. I politely replied no thank you because I'd already poured one. He washed up. I sat next to him watching University Challenge as he answered an extraordinary number of questions, as usual. We both watched Lady in the Van that I'd recorded over Christmas. "I don’t know why I’m watching this with you," he said, "but it's strangely compelling." 

"Because it's slow," I said, placing my legs across his lap. 

"So why are there two Alan Bennetts?" He said. 

"I suppose it’s a device," I said, "so we know what he’s thinking."

"In accommodating her, I find 20 years of my life has gone," says one of the Alan Bennetts.

"If I was with her every day for twenty years, I'd strangle her," says Husband. 

"I’d be lost without you," I say. 

"Ditto," he says.

Love E x


P.S. "You don't put yourself into what you write, you find yourself there," says one of the Alan Bennetts.