What the hell I do all day

Right now I don’t have a job. I haven’t had a job since our whole digital department was made redundant in February, and I miss the sense of purpose it gave me. If you have a job, hold onto it with your mucky paws and dig your grubby fingernails in and don’t let it go, because being unemployed is shit.

I had a job interview two weeks ago about a permanent writing job in Switzerland. I had my hair and nails done, wore my smartest clothes and managed not to joke that it was the ‘Swiss role’. I thought the interview went well, but the agency never contacted me again. I only found out I hadn’t got the position through receiving an alert for the relisted job. Bang goes my plan for escaping Brexit!

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Being ‘freelance’ sucks, but I don’t just sit on my arse all day. No: I fill my time with a delightful cornucopia of activities. These generally include:

1. Calling my eight-year-old daughter. She’s currently on holiday with her dad. It is manifestly unjust that she gets a summer holiday and I don’t, but I love her to infinity, so it’s fine. Her telephone manner is a mixture of bored, disdainful and dutiful, and when she says ‘Love you!’ it actually means ‘I want to get off the phone now!’. I miss her so desperately my heart is aching from nine days without her. Roll on Monday.

Lily teeth gap

2. Going to the gym. It’s literally around the corner, but it takes me hours to motivate myself into going, because exercise is painful and wrong. The gym is great for people-watching though, and inspired me to write this, so it’s not all bad.

3. Writing blogs. These are getting trickier as I run out of anecdotes! This is day 37 of this blog, and unless I fill it with traumatic stuff, it’s going to be difficult to continue in this vein for much longer. I have loads of juicy celebrity stories but (a) I’d probably get sued, and (b) I’d never work in this town again (not that I’m really working now, but you get me). This is why you’re reading about what I do all day, not the time I had hot sex with Alan Titchmarsh and his selection of reappropriated gardening equipment. (This is a joke!)

4. Emailing my friends and patrons (same thing really). Rik is my top-tier patron so that’s why I started sending him lots of emails, but I reckon I would now anyway as he’s great. He’s incredibly funny and produced this selection of inappropriate children’s book ideas (below), plus he very kindly sent me a Paperchase gift card when I was feeling down about the Swiss role. I’m lucky to have him.

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5. Writing HOW TO LIVE TO 100, my next book. I’m co-writing it with David Conrad, a consultant in public health, so he sends me big chunks of scientific research and I add jokes and format them into entertaining and funny chapters. We’re just over halfway through, and it’s exciting seeing the book take shape.

6. Re-labelling my Demerara sugar jars, because I kept opening them and snacking.

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THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 32

Me: 12st 5.4lbs (total loss in 32 days: 8.8lbs)

I think my scales are stuck.

John: 14st 4.75lbs (total loss in 32 days: 2.75lbs)

John is promoting his comedy industry night The Grouchy Club.

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Ding-dongs and diet wrongs

Someone asked on Twitter, ‘Ever had a fight with a celebrity?’ To be honest, I’ve had a few, but the one which really stands out was my appearance on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV1 in March 2010, just before my nervous breakdown. It was a debate about whether it was a shame that Britons are less aware of the Easter story these days – and it wasn’t a fair debate, either, because it was three Christians (Alan himself, Gloria Hunniford and some arse from Christian radio) against me. This was over nine years ago, so I’m trying to dredge up all the depressing details from the bit of my brain where I’ve repressed them – apologies in advance for any inaccuracies.

I will never forget that Alan, Gloria and The Arse were all horrible and made it very clear that they didn’t like atheists at all. They were making jokes and exchanging pointed glances at my expense, and I felt very isolated and upset. There was literally no one in my corner. If I had been cool-headed when the cameras were rolling, I would have made Barack Obama’s point that ‘We are no longer just a Christian nation, but also a nation of Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Sikhs and non-believers’ (I’m paraphrasing here). I would have asked Gloria, Alan and The Arse from Christian Radio whether they were aware of, say, Zoroastrian stories, or stories of all the other religions – and if not, why was it more of a shame that Britons of other faiths weren’t aware of the details of the Easter story than vice versa?

But prior to the debate, the producer had tried to polarise it and take all the nuance out of it, insisting I ‘go in really hard – it was great when you said on the phone that religion was stupid’. Worse, none of the other participants would talk to me when I tried to be friendly, and then Alan grimly deigned to tell me in a threatening way that the debate would be ‘VERY feisty, VERY feisty indeed.’ When I was introduced as an atheist, I got roundly booed by the blue rinse brigade audience, and Alan joked that the response ‘wasn’t very Christian’, but I could tell that he was loving it. I tried to laugh it off, but was rattled. Then I completely lost my thread during the debate, and said that the Easter story was effectively a snuff movie, but I wasn’t as articulate and cogent as I would have liked to be, as they were all ganging up on me. It was a pretty dreadful performance on my part.

Afterwards, off-camera, Gloria and The Arse laid into me, laughing smugly that I was ‘awful and scary’ and ‘showed atheists in a very poor light’, and I snapped at all three of them that they were ‘fucking arseholes!’ and walked away shaking. My brain was telling me that I was hated and that someone out there was going to kill me, and days later I became suicidal – and the suicidal ideation lasted for over a year. I also refused to appear on telly again for a ridiculous number of years (eight? I’m not sure). However, I’ve never blamed my nervous breakdown on my appearance on the show, because though it was probably a contributory factor, my mental health was already very poor and this was just the last straw.

I can see, though, that being ganged up on 3-1 (plus factoring in the 200-strong elderly Christian audience, who were clearly the last remaining churchgoers in the UK) was not right. Producers have a duty of care and I wasn’t taken care of at all – I guess they thought I could fend for myself, but they were totally wrong. So I can completely understand why there have been suicides after similarly combative shows such as Jeremy Kyle. Leaving a show with the idea that everyone hates you is horrendous, especially in the age of social media.

Alan was right when he said the show would be feisty, but he could also have applied the adjective to me – though very mentally ill and anxious, I am simultaneously quite hot-tempered. I come across as placid and easygoing, but if something riles me, I see red. So during and after filming, I was experiencing a very intense, confusing mixture of anger and fear. They say that all anger is really fear, and they’re probably right, though I was also harbouring fantasies of channelling Rocky. I didn’t kick Gloria in the fanny, Alan in the balls or The Arse in the arse though, even though I really wanted to, as I didn’t want my foot to smell.

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Anyhow, fast-forwarding nine years to yesterday, I had an awful heated row about money with my ex-husband. We both dredged up lots of bitterness and resentment from our marriage (though friends, we both hold serious grudges and keep score massively. Some therapy would really help right now if either of us could afford it). He apologised for ‘being a dong’, though not before I had a huge emotional binge on all the junk food in the kitchen. So I’m back up to 13 stone again today and feeling very ashamed, which is miserable – but not as miserable as appearing on The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

I swear he’s the subconscious reason I don’t like gardening and have decked my whole back yard.

MY DAILY STATS

Weight: 13st (goal weight: 7st 11lbs)

Waist: 36.5″ (goal: 25″)

Bust: 43″ (goal: 32″)

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Lucy Spencer, Mark White, Shane Jarvis, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of amazing rewards in addition to this credit! Please support me on Patreon.