Farewell 2013, Thanks For The Memories

So, it’s New Year’s Eve and I guess any blog worth its salt uses today to look back over the last year.

I could write about my favourite books or films or theatre productions from this year but as this is still a relatively new blog, I thought I’d write about… me!!

It’s actually good to look back.  It keeps you grounded and I think it helps work out what the priorities are for the New Year.  And if I’m honest, 2013 has been a landmark year that will stay in the memory for a while.

The biggest event of 2013 for me was leaving the BBC after a thirty-year career there.  I never thought I would actually go because as much as I my have moaned from time to time, I loved my time there.  When the end came, it was an emotional last day followed by an absolutely fantastic leaving party a week later where I was completely overwhelmed by the warmth, affection and generosity of my wonderful colleagues.  They gave me some beautiful gifts and made the most amazing leaving film, which I still can’t stop watching some nine months on!

I like to think that March 2013 will always be remembered as the time the BBC said farewell to two clapped out, creaking old institutions.  One of course was me, the other was….Television Centre.  We had our own News farewell party at the end of 2012 when we moved to New Broadcasting House but the doors finally closed in 2013. I still feel very nostalgic for the old place as I spent most of my thirty year stint there and it was a fabulous place full of celebrities and for decades, it was the very heart of British television.  I loved it and the official farewell party, the week after mine, was a very emotional one for me.

I really don’t know where the time has gone since I left, as in my head I had planned to have another job by now but I have been having too much fun writing and acting.  It’s all I want to do.  I do love actors and writers.  They are all so creative and I have met some extremely talented new friends, some of whom have been amazingly generous in recommending me for various bits of work.  In this last year, I’ve done lots of little things that are lo-pay or no-pay but they have all made me so happy. They include:

– a couple of murder mystery dinners

– playing Mary in a new musical on the life of Christ

– various immersive theatre, street theatre and art installations all of which have involved interacting with an unsuspecting crowd

– medical and corporate role-play

And I’ve also experienced the downside of the whole business as I lost a couple of roles after thinking they were in the bag.  Note to self – never assume anything until the camera starts rolling or you’re in front of the audience!

I have worked on some great new writing projects which in turn have really got the juices flowing and have encouraged me in my own writing. I had nearly finished my novel but just in the last week, I was suddenly struck by an idea which means I need to restructure it all somewhat.  I think I need to take a few days out somewhere on my own, with no distractions, so that I can finally finish it.  Then after that, I plan to write some scripts, as I literally have hundreds of ideas in my head and I need to get them down on paper and up on stage!

2013 was quite an eventful year for my son too.  Even though he took it all in his stride, it felt like a rollercoaster for me. He started the year, in his usual lackadaisical way re-sitting some of his exams which he somehow managed to scrape through even though he spent far too much time partying and playing football.  Then, when he should have been focusing hard on his A-levels, he took time out to finish writing his third musical which he produced and directed and put on in mid-February.  I was really cross that he spent so much time on it when he should have been studying but I have to admit that it was brilliant and got excellent reviews and in spite of my frustration, I am incredibly proud of how amazingly talented he is to have written such beautiful songs and a story that had everyone in tears!

For those first few months of the year, he auditioned at all the key drama schools including RADA, LAMDA, Central, Guildhall and Rose Bruford. It was a bit of a wake-up call for him as I think he thought he would just breeze in but actually, he didn’t make it in to any.  He got some really good feedback from them all, with Central even telling him that he was very talented and easily marketable but like the others they wanted him to go off and live life a little before auditioning again.

That hit him hard and made him realise that he needed to work hard towards his exams if he was going to get a university place to study drama at Liverpool, Warwick or Manchester and so around April time, he started making a real effort.  As I was relatively free, I was also able to spend time with him helping him with the some of the topics he was struggling with.  I take credit for making him love Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” almost as much as I do.  In May he finally left school for ever, took his exams in June and then in August, we found out that miracle of miracles, he had actually got some decent grades, which meant that at the end of September, he took up his university place at Liverpool and had an amazing first term studying the subject he loves.

He has done well in his first exams and assessments, got the lead in the university musical, “Asco”, compered a charity variety show and next term, will be hosting his own show on the University Radio station.  And to top it all, that lazy boy who didn’t seem at all motivated at the start of the year was awarded a university scholarship!  Immense pride simply isn’t adequate enough to cover just how I feel about him at the moment!

Meanwhile, my clever studious daughter who has worked hard ever since she first started at nursery, lost a couple of dress sizes as she hardly ate or slept in the run up to her Law finals in her last year at Oxford.  I was very worried about her but it was all worth it as she passed with a 2:1 and her Graduation in August was one of the proudest days of my life as I watched her take part in a ceremony dating back hundreds of years.

She turned 21 in 2013 and celebrated with a party that lasted the whole weekend! I keep telling her that when her grandmother was her age, I was already a year old but neither she or her rather gorgeous boyfriend seem to be hearing me !!

Talking about her grandmother, my mother turned 70 in September and we had a bit of a do for her.  I think she enjoyed it….but it nearly killed me !!  In fact, it has put me off any kind of “do” for some time, so that even though it’s only six weeks away, I have no plans to celebrate my “special” birthday in February.  39 again, in case anyone is asking!

We’ve had some work done on the house.  The builders started at the end of October and I thought it would take a month……they are still here ! Bathroom, kitchen, shower room and garage all still to be completed.  Hopefully, they’ll be gone by the time I settle down this time next year to write about 2014.  Hopefully….

Anyway, I’m looking forward to 2014.  I’ve got all my writing and a part in a short film with an award-winning director to look forward to.  The rest is a bit of a mystery which I think, is quite exciting!  Trust you all have an exciting 2014 to look forward to as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! 

Christmas !

Aww, I love Christmas.  I mean, I really love it.

It has always been a special time.  As a child, it was all about the presents and I couldn’t wait to get at them first thing in the morning. And then there was the food, although we always had to wait until late in the afternoon to eat because after Church, my Dad would go along to a local hospital where the charity he worked with would deliver toys to the children there.  But when he came home, we would eat until we were stuffed and then we would play any games I’d been given as gifts.  And of course the television in the evening was always a treat, even though back then, there were only three channels to choose from…

But I think Christmas became far more important once I had my own children because seeing it through their eyes as they were growing up was simply magical and it was important to me that they really enjoyed it.  I think they must have done, because now they are in their twenties they both insist that all the little traditions that we created along the way are still maintained, even though I pretend to be cross at why on earth it’s necessary, now they are all grown up!!

In actual fact, the thought of them getting married and having Christmas Day somewhere else freaks me out slightly and I always have to put that thought to the very back of my mind or I start hyper-ventilating!

I start to think about Christmas around mid-November when I try and order some cards from my various charities but apart from that, I refuse to do anything else until December as I always think it spoils things to start Christmas too early.  I’m sure it is that sort of thinking that is responsible for me still running around on Christmas Eve, trying to get everything done!

But come 1st December, I finally cave in and start buying mince pies and stollen and I also get in the advent calendars!  This year there was a near-riot when I told my twenty and twenty-one year old that I wouldn’t be doing that as they were far too old for such nonsense and my daughter virtually begged me to pleeeeeasse get her a “Where’s Wally” calendar.  I asked her what relevance that bore to Advent and reminded her that if I ever got a calendar when I was young, it never contained chocolate and instead, had pictures of the story of the Nativity. She yawned and nodded and said that I told her that every year but she still wanted “Where’s Wally.”

Meanwhile, the boy was calling from university asking where his calendar was and when I said IF I got him one, he would get it on the 6th when we were due to visit, he was most distressed.  He called every day that first week, asking if I could maybe post one to him.  Of course, I refused.  What is it with opening a little flap and getting a piece of cheap chocolate – why is that such a pleasure?? Anyway, it was the first thing he asked for when I took him all his treats on our visit!  His flatmates looked on with a little envy as they complained bitterly that their parents hadn’t got them one and I admit to feeling very proud that I was such a kind, generous and thoughtful mum!

During those first couple of weeks in December, I like to try and get a few Christmas cards done each evening.  It’s something that I love doing, while drinking mulled wine and listening to “White Christmas” for the millionth time.  On the occasions when I have paced myself, I have had time to write a personal little note and enclose a family photo to the friends and family who are abroad or who I haven’t seen in a while….

That’s always the theory.  But the reality is that I keep putting it off and then do them all in a rush in one go, drinking far too much of that wine that it makes our names more and more illegible as they are hastily scribbled on each card so that I’m sure the recipients never have any idea who they are actually from!

And then there’s the tree!  If I am in panto, it usually goes up early in December as we’ll often have an after-show party on the first Friday and I like the place to look Christmassy for that.  Otherwise, it goes up mid December.  I’m not very good at dressing it, so husband and daughter normally do it while I shout instructions from the opposite corner of the room. like “there’s nothing on that branch” or “the fairy’s wonky”.  I think my help there is much appreciated.

All this is always done with my favourite Christmas album playing, and you may laugh but that happens to be “Christmas To Remember” with ….Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers !!  Unbelievably, it’s on a cassette tape and I have had it forever and I LOVE it!  It only gets played once a year, for the tree decorating, but I panic that one day, we won’t have a cassette player anymore (who does?!) and that it will be lost forever.  I could download it but nah….not so magical !

It was while Dolly and Kenny were singing to us, as we were decorating the tree twenty-two years ago, that I told my husband that I was pretty sure I was pregnant.  The look of wonder and surprise and delight on his face is something I will never forget.  It was all confirmed that Christmas Eve and I don’t think I have ever been able to top that particular Christmas present since then.

On Christmas Eve, I am usually up at about 6am in a bid to beat the crowds to the shops as I will usually have forgotten something and am in crazy, stressed-lady mode.  I stop by the butcher on the way back who finds our family a bit of a challenge because what we actually eat for the Big Meal is a subject for much discussion each year, that he inevitably gets drawn into.  You see, the problem is that none of us actually like turkey that much!  We are a family of lamb-lovers but all agree that Christmas Day really has to be about a bird of some sort.  Over the years, we have tried a number of different options, but never really come up with the solution.  For example, we have tried:

– a capon but it has too much white meat which is the reason we don’t really like turkey

– Cornish hen which are delicious but husband thinks these individual little birds are just too fiddly to eat elegantly

– the three in one bird, which we did a few years back.  I think it was turkey, chicken and duck and I gave the butcher my own stuffing so that he could put it all together for me.  I was really looking forward to it but in the end it was a bit dry….and bloody expensive!

– goose, but I seemed to be cleaning my oven for months aftwerwards and I don’t want to do that again, thank you

– duck, which was lovely but there wasn’t enough meat for everyone, which sent me into a slight, no, major panic.

So this year, we have gone back to turkey, which is what we inevitably do between each of these alternatives. It’s fine.  It’s traditional and we don’t hate it – we just end up fighting over who has to eat all that troublesome white meat….which is usually me!!

Oh, there’s so much more to write about Christmas but I must stop because….well, I have loads more cards to write and today is the last posting date and there are still presents to buy and I can feel my stress levels starting to rise from somewhere deep within, because once again I haven’t been organised enough to really be sure about what I’m supposed to be doing.

Mind you, there’s still a week to go…..

Did You Know

From time to time, I like to do these question things!  They are a good way of focusing the mind but most of all, it’s something to post when you can’t think of a single other thing to write about or, when you are putting off more important things……like making a start on organising Christmas !

First memory?

When I was little and my parents were out at work, I was looked after by a lovely lady who took me on when I was less than a year old. She had a little dog called Bingey and apparently we were inseparable.  He used to follow me around and there are some gorgeous black and white photos of the two of us together. I think my first memory is of falling over in the back garden as a toddler and starting to cry, and him then barking to get attention.  Oh, he was adorable.

Cat or dog person?

Because of Bingey I started off as a dog person but when I was a teenager, a very haughty ginger cat decided to adopt us. He just stalked in to the house one day and stayed.  He actually belonged to the family next door-but-one and they didn’t seem to mind.  Surprisingly my mother let him stay with us, even though she has always disliked the idea of household pets, and she became more attached to him than any of us.  I think she liked the fact that he was so rude.  (I would suggest that she saw something of herself in him but she reads this and will give me a seriously hard time if I suggest any such a thing!) Anyway, he came and went as he pleased, gave affection if he so chose and seemed to get pissed off and impatient very quickly and for no real reason. He was a complete pain in the arse….and I loved him to bits. He stopped coming so much once I got married, and then completely disappeared once the children arrived and started bothering him.  He was far too superior to have to deal with them!

Best friend?

It really upsets me but I don’t have one. I just can’t seem to allow myself to get that close to any one person and so I surround myself with lots of people, some of whom I genuinely adore. I suppose my husband is my closest friend and the only one I really talk to, in any depth.  But when he gets on my nerves….nope, there’s no one I would choose to tell

Best trait?

I think people are drawn to me because I am a good listener and I genuinely care about the people I like. I think I give good advice too – probably because I’m a really old bird now who has picked up a bit of wisdom along the way!  It may just be that I have a loud laugh though, which people seem to love to hear when they have made a pathetic joke!!

Worst trait?

Probably that loud laugh! And a seriously bad temper – which hardly any one outside of my poor family has witnessed

Religious faith?

I have a deep Christian faith but I find that whenever it comes up, people often want to question me or tell me I’m wrong and I’m not clever enough to argue the point.  So annoyingly, I don’t talk about it much, apart from in Church where I have often lead the services.  I should though, as a message of love and forgiveness really can’t be such a bad thing to follow, even though I struggle with it every day!

Beauty routine?

I’m a bit lax really. I don’t cleanse, tone and moisturise as often as I should and certainly not with expensive products.  It’s easier just to wash my face with soap and water and then slap on loads of gloopy face cream. I don’t wear any make up during the day at the moment but I put lots on when I go out and I like that it makes me feel dramatically different!

What clothing makes you feel good?

Anything that makes me think I look good …..and I love it if I find something old that suddenly fits again!!  Though that hasn’t happened in a long time!

Signature look?

Nowadays, it’s usually just jeans or leggings with some shapeless old top that’s nice and comfy.

Cameron, Clegg or Milliband?

Give me strength! They all cause my blood pressure to rise pretending to be so different when none of them actually care.  Why isn’t there any other choice??

Biggest regret?

There are loads but I learnt long ago that there is no point dwelling on them. The most successful people seem to be the ones who turn around their mistakes and refuse to wish their life was any different.

Last got drunk?

No, no – I don’t do that sort of thing anymore…….!!

High maintenance?

Uhmm…… have you not read this blog?? Of course I am – BIG TIME!!!

Backpacker or designer suitcases?

Well, I can’t be bothered with designer anything but I’m definitely not a backpacker – if it hasn’t got ensuite facilities and fluffy towels, I’m really not interested!!

City or country living?

I couldn’t live anywhere where there are no street lights!

Phone or text?

I have a bit of a phone phobia at home.  At work, it was never a problem but I realise now that I try to avoid talking into a mobile at all costs. I think it’s because I seem unable to do that quietly, and still shout ….in that Dom Joly fashion!  Much prefer texting

Won the lottery what would you do?

I fantasise about this all the time. Pay off debts, make sure my children have what they need, give up looking for a job and find a worthy charity who could benefit from my experience and some of my new found fortune!

I don’t play though so I’m not quite sure how that will happen …….