Archive for September, 2011

The many Poker players among you will already have scented what my theme is.

I have been advised (a number of times) that I have a set of “tells” which announce a set of different emotions on my behalf.

I have seen this in others, of course. In Best Friend, it is the planting of both feet at shoulder width to announce “You and I are going to fall out, sunshine.”

With Old Friend at Work it is the simple words “Are you joking?” to announce “The next fifteen minutes are going to be the worst of your life – and I shall fill each one of those with such invective as could take the paint off an ocean liner.”

With me, they are as follows:

  • Emotion: “Disregard for your intellect/the content of what you’ve just said”
    • Tell: “It’s like shutters coming down over your eyes” (to quote someone who’s seen it).
  • Emotion: “Warm Anger”
    • Tell: “Lion Hands” (fingers splayed, and bent back into “claws”)
  • Emotion: “Cold Anger”
    • Tell: “Shark Eyes” (to quote Old Friend at Work’s assessment, followed by the qualification – “I would rather be dead than have those shark eyes turned on me”).

In my line of work, of course, it’s the first that’s the most dangerous, as I have to spend a fair (or, as I would argue warmly, an unfair) amount of my time doing my “nodding and encouraging and “I’m sure there’s something in that” face – and yet it is that first tell that I have been advised/warned of most often and most consistently.

I wonder if I was born with it?

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I am currently pondering alternative careers, their ups and their downs – and I think I need to put a few thoughts “out there” (by which I mean: “on here”).

Architect: I have just employed an architect and it is costing me a lot of money. He is a very nice chap, and seems to be full of good ideas about making my new house into something akin to a palace, and I’ve decided that he probably has quite a nice life. In my head, I see him sitting down at a big table, drawing things with Fineliner pens (which I am very keen on), with his tongue poking a little bit, with his wife saying “How’s it going?” every now and then, as she brings him a coffee which has to be set a long way away from his VERY IMPORTANT DRAWING. I wouldn’t like the measuring bit, and if there were any bits when people/clients didn’t do exactly what I wanted, I’d probably get a bit miffed, but on the whole, Architect is on the list.

Writer of Effortlessly Brilliant Comedy: I know I could write something better than “My Family” – and that’s been the most popular sitcom on British TV since The Battle of Marston Moor (1644). The modus operandi I have for this is rather different: it involves me working from a book-lined study (got), overlooking distant rooftops and squares (got), in a cardigan (got rather too many of), while my housekeeper (not got – and probably wouldn’t want, on reflection, but I don’t want the whole house of cards to come down) prepares lunch. This very traditional scenario is at odds with the comedy that I produce that is edgy, incisive, can take you to the brink of tears and induce rocking gales of laughter within seconds. Its principal aim is for me to be able to look slightly surprised and “I’m only bothered about the work-y” at all the industry award ceremonies that I am such a feature of.

Critic: On a similar platform to the “My Family” analysis above – it is crystal clear to me that if Cosmo Landesman (who manifestly hates cinema) can become the film critic of The Sunday Times, then I, who really like the cinema could probably become film critic of the universe. I wouldn’t be as “oh, the craft!” as Mark Cousins, nor as furious as Mark Kermode – and obviously, I wouldn’t just read out the PR blurb, which is what the recent pretenders to Barry Norman’s crown appear to do. But I reckon I could ensure that we see a lot less of Tom Hanks, which is pretty much all that I would be interested in achieving.

Inventor: I like fucking about with stuff, but I’m shit at physics. Youngest Son is shaping up to be brilliant at the kind of reason that one needs to master the subject, so I might co-opt him early and make him “come in with me”, otherwise, I’ll probably only REALLY be able to invent things that are “things glued onto other existing things – perhaps with a handyclip on them” – and that’s not the scale that I see myself doing the job on.

The truth is probably this: I am after something where I don’t have to put up with “workshops” – and all of these careers strike me as being pretty workshop free. They are also well-suited for one who does not count himself as a “team player” (a point mentioned in my latest appraisal, of which more later, if I can be bothered), as they have the distinct advantage of the team including one person: me.

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Well: this is a turn-up.

I am being cyber-stalked for sex by a woman with whom I have already HAD sex.

It’s all very exciting, as I am sure you can imagine. It seems that Woman In Whose House I Fell Over While Removing My Jeans is keen to “see” me again, and while it doesn’t necessarily feel like the best idea; given that my previous provider of all things sexual (Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriend) is now on distant shores, beggars can’t be choosers.

And so it is, that I find myself sending jaunty, flirty texts and arranging a “hook-up” like a man half my age. I shall, of course, apprise you of the details (in so far as decency and memory permit) and will do my level best not to let the removal of my trouserings prove such a barrier to remaining upright (fnarr fnarr) this time.

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See this as an open letter, if you like. It needs saying in an open forum and that’s as near as I can get to one in our DigiWiki2.0 world. I’ve got something that needs saying and that needs to be heard and it is this: “You are testing my patience, Fiona Shaw.”.

I was OK with the “True Blood” news. In fact, I was pleased for you: you deserve the rewards that this should bring you, both financial and profile-related. You did exceptional work in “John Gabriel Borkman”, what with Ibsen being made for you in the manner of a pair of fine gloves – but you have (thus far) refused to bring it to London. OK, fine – I can live with that.

What I CANNOT live with is the news that your return to the London stage is as a director of opera. And yet, what do I see in The Sunday Times this weekend, but an advert for “The Marriage of Figaro” directed by you. Now look: I cannot deny that you did a terrific job on your last ENO outing, but that’s beside the point. That production of “Antony and Cleopatra”, directed by Deborah Warner isn’t going to stage itself, you know. You are the perfect age for it now, and you haven’t done a big Shakespearean role in decades, literally. Do YOU think that’s good enough? I think if you really think about your behaviour, you’ll realise that it’s not on – and it’s not just this, there’s lots more besides. You need to get “Medea” filmed. Likewise, I would suggest “Happy Days”. Brecht is not terrific on film, so I shall let you off  “Mother Courage”, but then there are the other projects that I have mentioned to you before, including Volumnia, and (I would suggest) Mrs Alving.

So please: think about what you’re doing, get the direction off your chest and then get back ON the stage. Yes?

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I only have myself to blame – and that (to me) is almost the dictionary definition of “unhappiness” – and I am sitting here in a thick pipe smoke of regret.

I’ve gone and bought the wrong sandwich. And do you know what’s truly sickening: even as I picked it off the shelf, but one thought came to my mind, and that was: “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong”.

The path that got me here, handing over too much money for a sandwich that was going to taunt me with its inappropriateness was straight and simple: since about eleven this morning, thoughts of a previously sampled sandwich, the sandwich to rule all sandwiches, had popped into my mind and WOULD NOT GET OUT.

Now: I daresay I know what you’re thinking – something along the lines of “Big deal, Eiljert: pop out and get it, you big twat, you work in London’s famous London in that there advertising: surely there are no barriers that you cannot surmount when faced with sandwich-based desires.” And that would be fair enough, IF I knew where The Sandwich of Dreams resided – but I didn’t.

Instead, it was like one of those pub conversations when you’re all sitting round, wracking your brains to find the name of “That film with that bloke in. The guy who was married to that woman.” and you think  of every film ever made, other than the one that your sub-conscious has trapped and locked in a cell, until you wake up at 2am, with the thought as clear as anything in your head: “Flatliners”.

Yeah, well – so far, I haven’t even HAD my “Flatliners” moment. I’ve gone and bought a pale imitation of the sandwich I was thinking of, and I can’t imagine how it has come to this. I wracked what is left of my brain thinking about it for a good couple of hours, and still I got nowhere. I visited a full half-dozen sandwich emporia, and emerged empty-handed and furious. Eventually, I walked, dull of heart and dull of eye into Marks & Spencer where I entered into a sandwich-based transaction that had nothing to do with love, and everything to do with satisfying base appetites. Inevitably, the sense of satisfaction was fleeting and then over-taken by a far deeper, stronger, truer sense of unhappiness – as is the way with these things.

I wish I could manufacture a happy ending to this story, but there is none. The loss is still real, the disappointment still palpable. I shall emerge from this sadder, but stronger – and I suppose that that must be our shared consolation.

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