Back in May 2010 I announced – with gay abandon – that I was leaving behind my old career to become a Bohemian Writer instead. I would move to Buenos Aires where I would drift around in bare feet; wearing an assortment of headscarves, eating alternative foods such as silken tofu and giving up consumer crap like make up and fashion. I’d do art and culture and politics. Oh yes I would!
It didn’t really happen. I did go to Buenos Aires but there was nothing bohemian or chilled about the way I wrote my first novel. I was manic and I wore Topshop. I drank too much tea and the closest I got to ‘doing art’ was making a tit of myself at my housemate’s art show.
Never mind. The point here is that when I left the UK, I’d decided that television – my old job – was done. I had graduated. I was about to live the dream. No more production for me. Writing was the future!
I had lunch with Marie Claire legend Katy Regan recently. “I’m working about ten jobs,” she told me. “And looking after my son. If I’m lucky I get a few hours a week to write novels. Can you imagine what it would be like to be able to just write full-time?!”
Shit, I thought, shocked. But that’s my plan! Writing two novels and travelling South America was a completely ridiculous undertaking on my part and by the end of it I was broken. I longed to get back to London where I would set up shop as a full-time writer with nothing else to do or worry about. I’d write hard during the day and play hard at night. But as my fellow blogger then went on to point out, who can afford to be just writer any more? We’re in a recession! We ain’t got no cash, innit.
Oh TREBLE SHITE, I thought, logging my pants. This was a very good point.
I’d been studiously ignoring my bank account for some time now, hoping that it had miraculously recovered from nearly two years abroad. On my way back from the Regan/Robinson luncheon I checked it at an ATM and discovered that it had not recovered at all. Au contraire, I was a very unhealthy two thousand pounds overdrawn (TWO THOUSAND POUNDS OVERDRAWN?? For crying out loud! I’m NEARLY THIRTY TWO YEARS OLD!) and didn’t even have the money to pay back my bank loan or credit card. Let alone the two months’ rent that I owe The Man.
I slid to the floor in a delicate swoon.
Or, I swore a lot, ran home and burst into tears and then hid in bed in case that would help.
Soon after I found myself some part-time employment back in the world of television. And so, my friends, I am now a normal human being again. Whose work life does not revolve round conversations with her teacup. I force myself on to the minging tube, wearing clothes that are not pyjamas, and go to an office where I sit with a telephone and computer and make conversation with people I don’t know (although I have to say that it does often feel – after a very short time – that we are in fact old friends. On Friday I actually found myself telling one colleague about the minutiae of my bowel movements while ill in South America. In the kitchen, as we stood cupping our Earl Greys. What was I thinking? It has clearly been too long. I’m not fit for this. She looked really upset.)
Annoyingly I can’t tell you much about my new programme, cos it’s top-secret like. But I can tell you that I am going to have to be dressed very smartly on a regular basis. This is unusual in TV. One of the perks of the job is that it’s normally ok to slope in looking like a foetid pig. You never have to look smart. So when I went to a briefing the other day where they said “Please wear smart business dress on the shoots,” I was bewildered. Smart business dress? What the f*ck is that, I wondered?
Suits. That’s what it is. And smart shoes. With smart handbags. No grimy Mexican leather satchels and converse. No jeans. No bad hair. No bling. We’re talking sleek, smart and stylish.
There is nothing about me or my wardrobe which is sleek, smart or stylish. Or anything even close. I am a human jumble sale. I am chaotic, holey; definitely casual. When I told The Man that I was going to have to wear smart business dress he clutched his sides and wept with laughter.
The situation is beginning to really stress me out now, as we approach the first SMART DAY. This morning, for example, I had a planning meeting with someone from SMART DAY and so I needed to be reasonably presentable. Prior to said meeting I consulted my handbag collection and ended up in such a state of panic that I decided to buy a new one on the way. But no sooner had I found a smart handbag than my card was declined.
To reiterate: I am a big fat disaster. If I was my mother I’d be ashamed of me. Actually, scrap that. I don’t need to be my mother to be ashamed of me.
But, while the smart handbag situation is bad, the smart clothing situation is far worse. The last time I wore a suit was 1999 (this is no exaggeration) when I was a student and some poor fool gave me a position of responsibility at Edgbaston Cricket ground during the cricket world cup. As a student with a robust student loan I was basically rich; buying a suit, therefore, posed no problem. And yet now, aged 32, I can’t even pay my bloody rent.
I went back to my boss to try to negotiate over this suit situation. “A dress?” I pleaded with my boss. “With a smart blazer?”
She shrugged, obviously accepting that this was her best hope.
I tried to shop for said dress on Sunday. I consulted the girl in charge of the dressing rooms, told her my predicament and showed her a succession of outfits. She couldn’t pick a single one. And you know why? “It’s just sort of hard to imagine you all smart,” she said guiltily. “Why don’t you come back when you’re a bit more… er, a little less…”
She trailed off. I looked at myself in the mirror again and went very red in the face. I could see her point. I’d been in Greenwich park so had haystack hair. I was also sporting a large piece of cotton wool taped to my leg from an earlier shaving incident and had plasters on my toes from ill-fitting shoes. I had no makeup on. The nice smart dresses I was trying on were grossly insulted by their model. It was a disaster.
So, I remain suit-less and smart day gets ever closer.
And here’s the final straw: I did my back in UNFOLDING A PILLOWCASE LAST NIGHT. Do you hear me? Not throwing a sheet briskly over our bed or hoiking up a heavy mattress. I was unfolding a pillowcase. Why? HOW? And so when I went to my posh meeting today, I was so crippled that the woman I met had to pick my coat up when I dropped it (twice) and had to pour my tea because I can’t actually lift anything. Several times when she asked me questions I realised that I was just gazing strangely at her because I had taken so many drugs I didn’t even know where I was.
So right now I am working from home. And really, I’m beginning to realise that it’s where I belong. Back on go the three jumpers topped off with dressing gown that features a splodge from my tomato butter bean and chorizo soup.
I’ve decided that I’m going to have to take some lessons in how to be successful and attractive. Enough is enough. I’m a f*cking disgrace. If anyone can help, please contact Marie Claire. This cannot go on any longer.
I attach a photo of myself during smarter times so you know there is at least some hope.
(I didn’t think I warranted a capital letter.)