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.

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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.

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters Ricky Steer, Marc Alexander, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon. 

Rewards start from just $1 a month, which is 85p in real money and gets you access to my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but EVEN BETTER!

 

 

My first ever (technically illegal) job

On Twitter recently, there was a trend for people to list five jobs they’d had. I’ve had some truly crazy jobs – and that’s before we get to TV sitcom writing, journalism and broadcasting. Here’s my tweet:

My first ever job as far as HMRC are concerned was being a cleaner at McDonald’s in 1996, aged 16, which I wrote about for the Guardian in 2008. But a year before that, in 1995 when I was 15, my dad employed me for six weeks.

My dad was often a physically violent, emotionally abusive, utterly deranged monster. I still have regular dreams (nightmares, really) about escaping from him and my mum, running from the house and never looking back.

But he could also be kind, funny and encouraging – and he and my mum were always very generous with money. So when I couldn’t get a job aged 15, he agreed to ’employ’ me for £4 an hour, writing sticky labels for videos.

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[Dad and me in 1982, when I was 18 months old. I was slightly older than this when I wrote the video labels.]

My dad taught at the University of Westminster (which was called the Polytechnic of Central London for the first half of his career). He was Course Leader or Lecturer on each of three degree courses – Film & Television, Media & Communication Studies and Journalism – and it doesn’t take a Freudian to point out that these are all the areas I ended up going into as a writer. Excuse me while I get the brain bleach!

Dad lectured several future celebrities, a couple of whom I now know – Charlie Brooker and Jon Ronson – and I ended up going to the same university for my own first degree (a BA in Commercial Music). Sadly or happily though, depending on how you look at it, Dad didn’t give me any contacts in the media, and he didn’t help me get into university either. I had to graft and do all the hard work myself. I got into television aged 21 after entering a BBC scriptwriting competition I found in a leaflet in HMV, and got into journalism at the same age after applying to do work experience at the NME.

When I was a kid, Dad would occasionally take me into work with him, and I once disrupted a lecture aged four by screaming ‘Daddyyyyy!’ after I got my leg stuck in a chair. My dad had to stride down the theatre aisle and rescue me in front of hundreds of laughing students.

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[Me aged four. My parents were not the best at framing photos.]

Anyhow, my dad had amassed what I believe is technically called a ‘shit ton’ of video tapes. For over a decade, he’d illegally taped films off the telly to show in his seminars – every day, he circled all the films he wanted to record in the Guardian TV guide – but all these black cassettes were in blank cardboard VHS cases with yellow Post-it notes on.

Post-it notes aren’t very sticky after a while, as I’m sure you know, so my dad wanted me to transfer the information on them to proper white adhesive labels to stick on the sides of the videos. He could have done it himself – he certainly had lovely neat, precise handwriting. But it was a menial and boring chore, so he delegated it to me, even though my handwriting was very scrappy indeed. And he actually paid me 25p more per hour than the £3.75 I subsequently got at McDonald’s for cleaning toilets!

So I spent the summer I turned 15 holding a squeaky marker pen in the Film & Television department of my dad’s university, hunched over a roll of sticky labels, writing titles like ‘The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock, 86m).’ It was very dull, but school was very dull too, and at least I got paid for this.

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[Me aged 14, when I didn’t have any jobs at all. I did, however, have a horrible bag.]

My dad was forced to retire from the university in 2003 when he turned 65. It was truly sad to watch, as he was crushed by not feeling needed anymore. Ironically, it was a bit like the film About Schmidt, as Dad kept on going into the building unpaid until he was told he was no longer welcome. He threw himself into researching his family genealogy for the last 13 years of his life instead – I think it was a suitably academic task that made him feel needed again.

Still, I bet somewhere in a dusty library in the University of Westminster’s Film & Television department are several thousand illegal videotapes of films off the telly, recorded by my dad and labelled by 15-year-old me.

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE

Behold my toes, resplendent in neon orange varnish! I even partly waxed my legs for you, before I got bored and stopped. Don’t say I never spoil you.

Day 4

Me: 12st 10.6lbs (total loss: 3.6lbs in four days)

Hallelujah! Praise the Gods of weight loss. Yesterday I was downcast, but today it’s all turned around for me.

John: 14st 5.75lbs (total loss: 1.75lbs in four days)

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I am now doing over twice as well as John! Will he be able to catch up? Stay tuned…

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

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon. Rewards start from just 85p ($1) a month.