A Day In The Life

I never tire of reading those pages in the Weekend supplements that follow a typical day in the life of some gorgeous celebrity.  They clearly all follow the same pattern of questions – when and how do you wake up, what do you usually do in the morning, how do you spend a typical evening, do you sleep well, blah, blah.  

So, I thought I’d write my own day in the life, though there isn’t that much to say now I’m not working anymore and no longer being sent off on wildly exciting  news stories.  But here goes…

As soon as my radio alarm goes off, I wake up quickly to turn it off. It used to take three hits of the snooze button when the radio was set to the mellifluous tones of James Naughtie or John Humphrys on the Today programme but somehow, the dial has found its way to some ghastly local radio station with a presenter who has the most awful voice and talks utter tripe and so I’m up as soon as possible to turn off his dreadful diatribe.  I could change it back but I secretly like that I have found something that wakes me up properly !!

I usually then elbow my husband to get up and make the coffee and he stumbles off half-asleep to sort that out.  I would do it but he’s much better at brewing a proper cup of coffee than me! By the time he’s back, I’ve got the laptop and the TV on so that I can catch up with emails, Twitter and BBC Breakfast, and so have some idea of what’s happening in the world.

When I was working, I would then rush around getting ready, and there would usually be some shouting involved as my son took his own sweet time to get out of bed and the husband would usually choose to enter the shower just as I wanted to.  But now it’s all much calmer.  I pad down to the kitchen and make lunch for the boy and once he is out of the house and on his way, I ……go back to bed.  Such a luxury!

I haven’t started looking for work yet so the morning is usually spent finding out as much as I can about Macbeth, Frankenstein, The Bloody Chamber (ugh!) and US Government and Politics, in a bid to help my son with his revision when he gets home.  He is far more interested in focusing on his Drama and Music (or playing football) than doing any work towards his other A-levels.  His sister, on the other hand, needs a daily call from me to calm her down as she panics that she is not getting enough work done for her Finals, even though she’ll have been up half the night studying like a crazed demon.  I haven’t got a clue how both my children have turned out so differently.

No two days are the same at the moment.  I have been:

– catching up with long lost friends for coffees and/or leisurely lunches

– doing various courses that the BBC provides for its leavers

– spending lots of time at the Actors’ Centre, where classes there have inspired me to get on with performing and/or writing

– organising years of paperwork that I have let pile up, into pretty files and folders

– clearing out cupboards/drawers/garage/shed and finding long lost treasures

– doing household chores properly….Now, instead of racing around throwing clothes in the washing machine or running a quick iron over them as they are required, there is  finally order

– finally getting round to trying all those new recipes that I’ve amassed over the years.  (Unfortunately though, my cooking will never be as good as my mother’s …as she keeps reminding me!)

The evenings for me are usually spent explaining what I’ve learnt to the boy, while he gazes longingly out of the window.  Then, as he supposedly gets on with his revision, I’ll flop down in front of the TV with my husband. Often, he has to wake me up as I’ll have fallen asleep on his shoulder, dribbling usually! Then, it’s up to bed where I’ll try to read for a bit but usually don’t make it through more than a couple of chapters before I’m asleep again.

My husband likes to sleep with his arms around me and that’s a nice way for me to drift off away from the world into the black comfort of sleep.  I usually sleep very well, very deeply. Sometimes though, I talk in my sleep and have often woken up to find him asking me questions! He gets another elbow in the ribs then, but going back to sleep takes a while, as I wonder what could have possibly been so interesting ……!

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I Dare You

Ridiculously, my chest infection has flared up again leaving me feeling very sorry for myself and back in bed, where I seem to have spent most of my time since stopping work.  

I decided to use the time constructively this morning by clearing out my emails and I found this one from a friend in America.  It was doing the rounds a couple of years ago. You may have seen this before too but when I read it again it brought on a coughing fit as it rendered me helpless with laughter. I bet you can’t get to the end without laughing.  

The next time you have a meeting at work and you find it a bit boring, try one of the following.   Not only will it make things more interesting but your workmates will become suddenly more alert too!

Go on, I dare you! 

During a meeting

– Discreetly clasp hold of someone’s hand and whisper: ‘can you feel it?’ from the corner of your mouth

– Draw a moustache on your upper lip with a felt tip pen and then offer the pen to your neighbour

– Wear a hands free phone headset throughout. Once in a while drift off into an unrelated conversation, such as: ‘I don’t care if there are no dwarves, just get the show done!’

– Write the words ‘he fancies you’ on your pad and show it to the person next to you while indicating with your pen

– Respond to a serious question with: ‘I don’t know what to say, obviously I’m flattered, but it’s all happened so fast’

– Reconstruct the meeting in front of you using action figures and when anyone moves rearrange the figures accordingly

– Shave one of your forearms

– Draw a chalk circle around one of the chairs then avoid sitting on it when the meeting starts. When someone does eventually sit in it, cover your mouth and gasp

– Turn your back on the meeting and sit facing the window with your legs stretched out, announce that you ‘love this dirty town’

– Mount the desk and walk along its length before taking your seat

– Reflect sunlight into everyone’s eyes off your watch face

– Gargle with water

– Repeat every idea they express in a baby voice while moving your hand like a chattering mouth

– Hum throughout

– Pull out a large roll of bank notes and count them demonstratively

– Bend momentarily under the table then emerge wearing contact lenses that white out your eyes

– Use a large hunting knife to point at your visual aids

– Attempt to hypnotise the entire room using a pocket watch

– When referring to someone in the room always call them ‘homey’ or ‘dog’

– Leave long pauses in your speech at random moments. When someone is prompted to interject shout ‘I HAVE NOT FINISHED’

– Gradually push yourself closer and closer to the door on your chair

Meetings need never be the same again!

Where Are We?

Since I stopped working two months ago, I have had a constant chest infection.  I’m pretty sure it is do with our extended winter and the fact that it is still cold and that I’ve got no job to distract me from coughing and that it’s a good opportunity to get attention…. but, given that it’s getting on my nerves and stopping me sleeping, the doctor decided to send me off to hospital for a raft of blood tests.

I went a few days ago.

I took ticket number 89 and they were only on number 47 ! An old lady was wheeled into place opposite me by a younger woman, who then sat next to her. They both smiled at me and I noticed that the lady in the wheelchair was smartly dressed and she sat up straight and proud, and was very well-spoken.

She asked her carer what the number on the ticket was and was told 93 and she noted that they were in for a long wait. The local newspaper that was in her lap then slipped off her knees and fell in front of me. I picked it up and handed it to her with a smile and she thanked me very graciously. She gave it to her carer and asked her to read out some of the articles, which she did, and they then talked about some of the stories. 

I was quite fascinated by the two of them.

In between the reading, the old lady asked a couple of times what the number was on the ticket but the carer didn’t answer which I thought was a little rude. A little while later, I noticed the woman was not sitting up so straight but seemed to sag a little in her chair. While her carer was reading, she pulled her sleeve and asked “what time is your appointment?” The carer said “There’s no time – it’s not an appointment.” “Oh” said the old lady “what is it then?” “It’s a blood test remember and it’s for you, not me.” The old lady’s eyes widened and the carer patted her on the knee and reassured her that it would be OK and over very quickly but they just had to wait a while first.  The old lady slumped into her chair and stared at the floor while the carer just continued to read the newspaper quietly to herself.

I suddenly felt anxious and wanted to do something, but wasn’t sure what.

Then, about ten minutes later, the old lady sat up straight in her chair again and started to talk about one of the stories in the paper. I can’t remember the details but it was something about a man being sacked when his employer found out he was gay and she gave her opinions on why that was so wrong and proved very eloquent on employment law and human rights. She broke it off to ask what number was on the ticket and was again ignored, and then she suddenly asked where Brian was. Her carer asked “Brian? You mean your husband? He’s not with us anymore.” “Why?” asked the old lady. “Is he up in London?” “No” said the carer “He died a while back, didn’t he.” The old lady looked confused and then anger flashed across her face as she said “What a wicked thing to say. You’re a horrid girl. I shan’t talk to you any more.” And she sat staring at the floor again while the carer continued to read the paper.

I finally got it then.

It had taken a while to figure out as the old lady had seemed so well. I bet she was a teacher once, maybe even a headmistress, but I guess dementia doesn’t care about the past.

Number 89 finally flashed up and I walked away as the old lady, forgetting her anger, asked what ticket number they had……

Back To The Present

I’ve done all my looking back for now and it’s time to use this blog to look forward.  A friend sent me this recently, so I thought it would be an ideal way to at least consider where I am at the moment

1.  What are your current obsessions?

It should be desperately looking for a new job but I haven’t even started job-hunting yet. Mainly because I have been trying to motivate my son into taking some interest in his A-levels this summer!  In a bid to help him go over stuff, I have re-discovered my love of Macbeth and I have fallen in love with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.  How did I never read this before?  I guess I have become a bit obsessed with finding out as much as I can about it and the more I find, the more I love this book. I wish I could become equally obsessed with American politics (which he’s also studying) but their Constitution just doesn’t do it for me!

2. Who would you most like to have dinner with?

My Dad.  I miss him terribly, even though he died nearly fourteen years ago.

3. Last dream you had?

That all the windows and doors in my house were open and a whole load of bee-like things flew in and my daughter (who had turned into a little girl again) was having a panic attack and I didn’t want to leave her but I knew I had to get to the front of the house to lock the doors as masked men were trying to get in. I woke up in a sweat !  I’m pretty good at dream analysis but that one has got me stumped.

4. Last thing you bought?

A hoodie!

5. What are you listening to?

I have been helping my son put together his portfolio and in the process we have put together a selection of songs from the three musicals he has composed.  I know he’s my boy, but I think he’s brilliant!  I could listen to his music all day…in fact, I have been !

6. If you were a goddess who would you be?

Not if – I’d like to think I already AM one !!

7. Favourite holiday spots?

Anywhere in Italy!

8. Reading right now?

I should say something clever and worthy but actually it’s an old copy of Men’s Health that I found while clearing out the garage.  Particularly fascinated by 25 Tips To Make Your Woman Beg For More.  I’ve just left it on husband’s side of the bed !!

9. Four words to describe yourself.

Loud, flirtatious, listener, high-maintenance

10. Guilty pleasure?

I watch “Once Upon A Time” on Channel 5, but I don’t want anyone to know that I’m even aware Channel 5 exists

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?

Most of my friends and in recent years, both my children. Oh, and that M&Ms advert always gets me – .”Get in the bowl” …”You get in the bowl”  !!! I’m laughing now…..

12. Favourite summer thing to do?

Days out with the family, picnics, barbecues and marvelling at how beautiful everything looks in the sunshine…..when we get it!!

13. Planning to travel to next?

Paris, I think – in a couple of weeks.  Whoo hooo….

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?

I made Gordon Ramsay’s carrot and pineapple muffins on Sunday afternoon and they were DELICIOUS !  I ate three !!

15. When did you last get tipsy?

At a party just after Easter. Actually it was quite a bit more than typsy.  My children were very embarrassed and it took me a week to recover!

16. Favourite ever film?

Not sure. There are so many.  The one I think about a lot is “Closer” with Jude Law and Clive Owen – an excellent study in how cruel people can be to each other

17. Care to share some wisdom?

The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present, so accept it joyfully and make the most of it.

18. What item could you not live without?

Nivea cream – the thick gloopy stuff in the blue tin.  It’s fabulous!

19. Thing you are looking forward to?

For my son’s A-levels and my daughter’s Finals to be over so that we can finally have some fun together

20. What’s your favourite smell?

Freshly cut grass

21. What food makes you heave?

Liver and Beetroot – why would anyone eat either of those things?

And There’s More !

And so, in the early nineties, I started on “Breakfast With Frost”, which I absolutely loved. That was the Sunday morning programme with David Frost where I stayed for a good few years as it was a lovely small team and a great programme to work on. Once we were off air, we hosted a grand breakfast each week which became quite famous and the reason, I’m sure that so many top political leaders agreed to come on again and again.  And it was at those breakfasts that I was privileged enough to see a different side to some of those politicians.  John Major, John Prescott, Kenneth Clarke, and yes…even Gordon Brown proved to be most entertaining company and so different to what you saw on screen.  I took on the role of hostess with the mostess and I thoroughly enjoyed myself each week, flitting from guest to guest.

In 1997, I was part of the team that launched News24, now known as the News Channel.  We fell off air many, many times because of the new technology and to be honest we were a bit of a laughing stock back then but we got better and in the meantime I was off doing some huge stories which took months of planning – the Millennium, the Golden Jubilee, the Athens Olympics, the London bid for 2012. These are only a few highlights of what has been a really interesting career. I have been privileged to have a job that has allowed me to travel to places I probably would never have gone to and meet some truly interesting and inspirational people.  

I’m often asked what the best moment has been and it really is difficult to pick just one but I think that right up there must be when I was personally invited to South Africa to talk to Nelson Mandela about his paintings.  I had covered his first set that were released in London and was then asked to attend the unveiling of his second set of pictures – this time on Robben Island where he had been imprisoned for so long. They were very basic works of art, but very touching big blocks of colour because he said for all the years he was in jail everything seemed so grey: the people, the building, the food, the clothes, the rocks, the sky.  And then, towards the end of his captivity, as conditions became less severe, he was allowed to do some gardening.  He said even the tomato plants he was given seemed grey until one morning, he turned up at his patch to find a single tomato which had turned red and that vibrant colour moved him to tears. I asked him “Do you find painting more therapeutic than writing, Mr Mandela” and he shouted “NO no no, you must not call me Mr Mandela” and suddenly I wanted the ground to open up as I thought I should have called him Dr Mandela or ex-president Mandela or whatever and I cursed myself for not having checked such a basic thing. His voice softened as he saw my turmoil and he said “In this country they call me Madiba”   “Oh” I said, not sure what to say and in an even softer tone he said “Do you know what Madiba means” and of course now I felt really stupid as I said “No” and he looked at me with real affection and said “It means grandfather” and I completely welled up as the thought that this great man should invite me to call him grandfather.  Now that, was a very special moment.  

In my younger days, I was an expert verdict breaker on the major trials.  I worked on quite a few of the big ones, Damilola Taylor, Stephen Lawrence, Jill Dando, and then the subsequent Barry George appeal.   I got a lot of credit for my verdict breaking skills which effectively means getting the news from the courtroom on air as soon as possible which is not easy when phones have to be off in court.  Of course, there was some skill involved but basically I can now reveal that I learnt how to put my handbag to good use, often placing it in front of the SKY reporter as he jumped up to rush out of court and fell over it, or my elbows became good at stopping anyone getting in front of me and then as I put on more weight over the years, I found that actually simply standing in the door was enough to stop people getting past me – sad but true and an excellent reason for why it was OK to keep eating chips and cake in vast quantities!

I don’t ever remember being affected by the cold and believe me, standing outside the Old Bailey is like standing in a wind tunnel.  It’s never warm there, even in the summer, and the High Court is not much better but I could stand for hours out there laughing and joking with other news broadcasters, snappers and print journos, never feeling the cold.  Now, I only have to be out for a few minutes and as soon as I get home I have to retire straight to bed in layers of jumpers, woolly socks and hot water bottles – it’s not a pleasant sight !

2012 was probably the busiest year of my career as I spent the first part planning and then working on the four days of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations (the news element, not the BBC1 coverage that was rather slated in the press and maybe rightly so).  Immediately after that, and with no break to recover, I joined our Olympics team and worked solidly on what was probably the hugest gig of my career to date. It was the biggest thing the BBC has ever done and probably the most successful and I am proud to have been part of it.  It feels so strange to be talking about it now in the past tense as I was involved with it right from the start when London outlined their bid in Athens during the 2004 Olympics and  I followed it through right to the Closing Ceremony. 

I particularly remember working in Stratford, when we heard London had won.  The crowds went mad, strangers were kissing each other, people came running on to our stage full of genuine emotion and I dissolved into tears.  We couldn’t hear the comms back to London as it was so noisy and we were on air without realising it and apparently there is a shot of me screaming and hugging our presenter Chris Hollins.  It was a fantastic day. 

Of course, that joy was completely overshadowed the next day when we were all sent out and about around London to cover the 7/7 bombings.  Another day I’ll never forget. And that really sums up working in News, that you never know what each day holds.  That’s part of what made the job so addictive, because it really is never the same.

However, as addictive as the job was, after the Olympics it felt like the right time for me to leave the BBC.  It is still a great organisation but it is now a very different place and cuts and changes to pensions and terms and conditions made it difficult for me to stay as I didn’t want to end up hating a place that I have genuinely loved being part of. So, I left in March.

Oh and by the way, my mother who kept asking me when I would get a proper job?  Now she’s giving me a hard time and constantly asking why I ever left what was a “fantastic career”.  She’s absolutely right.  It really has been the best, and I will truly miss it.

But now that I have got it all out….it really is time to move on