Tag Archives: Pointless

Take Care of Yourself

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Hello and happy Friday to you, you gorgeous human being!

Yesterday my house mate Ash and I pootled off to Elstree for our second recording of Pointless, and while I’m not allowed to say very much about it specifically, I can tell you that we had a lovely time and that everyone we met was very nice, if a tad confused by us.  Let me explain.

When we were on our way to the bus stop at stupid o’clock yesterday morning, Ash suggested pausing at our local Tesco to get a couple of diet cokes.  The buy one get one free offer being what it was, we ended up filling her suitcase with twelve cans of the stuff.  While this seemed perfectly reasonable to us, it did make us look like we were carrying a mini bar around.  Whenever one of us said “could you pass me a diet coke please, love?” and the other one opened our case of caffeinated treasure, the looks on people’s faces were priceless.  One might argue that Ash and I have a slight problem…

I am about to make an incredibly hypocritical statement, but bear with me, because it comes with the best intentions: we all need to take better care of ourselves.  Ash and I both drink water, eat vegetables and exercise, but we are also (clearly) addicted to a very unhealthy beverage.  A lot of my friends who work hard are making leaps and bounds professionally, but health-wise they are running themselves into the ground.  This worries me.  The Irish grandmother bit of my brain bursts into tears when people  I love tell me that they don’t have time to eat proper meals.

I know that it’s difficult when you’re frantically busy, but I really, really want you (yes, YOU specifically) to look after yourself.  I have a few very good reasons for this:

  • You will get ill.  It’s just a fact.  Whether it’s a cold or full-blown influenza, you cannot eat badly (or not enough) for long without your body throwing a hissy fit about it.  Pay attention to your body, because you need it to get you places and house your brain and stuff.
  • You will feel like hell.  It’s bizarre how quickly our minds and bodies shut down when we’re not getting enough nutrients, but think about it: we all get grumpy when we’re hungry.  Mood swings are your brain’s way of telling you to eat a sandwich.
  • You are needed.  The majority of people who read this blog know me personally, so to you lovely people: I NEED YOU.  If you are not healthy and happy then the Irish grandmother in my head will be very upset, and you don’t want that.  (She’s very loud when she’s upset, and she’s been known to force-feed people.)  To those of you whom I don’t have the pleasure of being acquainted with: the people in your life need you.  They want you to be happy and they need you to take care of yourself, because there are no spare copies of you lying around.  You are unique and important, and if you scupper yourself health-wise then the people you love will be hurt.

Bearing that in mind, I hope that you eat a balanced, nutritious and delicious lunch.  Treat yourself to some cake or something, as well.  It is Friday, after all.

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Time is of the (Vanilla) Essence

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Good morning, you lovely thing!  How’s your week going so far?

If you’ve read my blog post about deadlines you will already know that I think working towards deadlines can be very good for us, but that we should have faith in the idea that opportunities don’t just come around once.  This post was similarly positive in tone, and dealt with the idea that we can afford to wait for the opportune moment.  Having made these fairly optimistic assertions, I would now like to talk about the slightly more frustrating side of things: the best laid plans of mice, men and mortgage brokers can be utterly scuppered by bad timing.  Good timing is like a ticket to your dream gig: you know some people have managed to get hold of it, but your best endeavours haven’t got you anywhere.  Sadly, there is no eBay equivalent for those of us who can’t seem to time things correctly.

In many cases, timing is problematic because it isn’t something we can entirely control.  Your best friend’s birthday party inevitably falls the night before your big job interview, and the season finale of your favourite television show is always showing when you’ve got a hefty essay due in.  In my house, we tend realise that we’ve run out of vanilla essence three minutes after Asda closes on the evening before some kind of cake-centred event.  (For the record, almost all of mine and Ash’s social interactions revolve around cake, and we are not ashamed.)

Currently, timing is just being a bit inconsiderate: I somehow managed to get ill just before today’s recording of Pointless.  This is an absolute pain in the sinuses, but I have two very good reasons not to let this bother me:

1) I have an incredibly compassionate flat mate who is very good at taking care of sickies, and who is unfailingly sympathetic when all I can muster by way of conversation is a feeble “uuuuuurgh my face hurts”.  Everyone should have an Ash in their lives, especially one who always has Olbas oil and vapour rub.

2) Pretty much everyone I know is ill at the moment, and we all know that lurgy loves company.

That’s the main point, isn’t it?  The worst feeling in the world is not necessarily going through something difficult, but feeling that you’re going through it alone.  Bad things don’t necessarily come in threes, but they definitely come in large numbers.  Sometimes it seems that we have stumbled across a school trip of bad news, and the little gits have taken over our mental landscapes with their lunch boxes of doom.  It isn’t necessarily encouraging per se that all of our friends get ill at the same time, that lots of couples break up within a few weeks of each other and that everyone seems to be in a bad mood on the same day, but our problems are so much easier to deal with when we realise that our loved ones understand them.  In many cases, their experiences of your situation will qualify them to offer you good advice, lots of empathy and, where necessary, decongestants.

Have a truly marvellous Thursday.  You deserve it.

Here We Go Again

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How are you today?  Love the bag, by the way.  Where did you get it from?

Tomorrow my flat mate Ash and I will be returning to Elstree to film our second episode of Pointless.  (For those of you who don’t watch the show, everyone records two shows because you get two chances to go through to the final.  Very generous of the producers, no?)  I am very excited about this, but also very nervous.  You’d think that having done it once before I would be able to swan into the green room and make myself right at home, chat chummily with the make-up lady, wave coquettishly at Alexander Armstrong and generally ooze confidence, charm and wit.  (Sounds exactly like something I’d do, doesn’t it?)

In reality, I will probably fall gracelessly into the studio, make no verbal sense until Ash has force fed me at least three of the complimentary green room coffees, have a sulk because I have’t done enough revision and generally panic about sounding like a moron in front of Alexander Armstrong, whom I absolutely adore.

The last time we went to Elstree Ash and I had a blast: the people were all really nice, the food was good and the experience as a whole was very interesting.  However, because we know what to expect I am hoping that Ash and I will both feel more confident the second time around.  This time I hope that I remember to tell Alexander Armstrong how much my brother and I enjoy his and Ben Miller’s RAF pilot sketches, and that I manage to do so without coming across as slightly weird.

Revision?  Yeah, I should probably do some of that…but I have The Armstrong and Miller Show boxset, so you know… priorities.

Have a glorious Wednesday!  May your professional interactions be productive and courteous.

Welcome to the Hotel Elstree

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Hello, dear reader!  How’s your weekend treating you so far?

I’m sorry I didn’t get around to writing a blog yesterday.  Although there was a lot of waiting around at the television studio, I was kept busy chatting to the other contestants, trying desperately to revise my weaker subjects (especially geography) and consuming free coffee.

Unsurprisingly, Ash and I are not allowed to say very much about our experience of filming Pointless, but I can tell you that we had a lot of fun and the production team, presenters and fellow contestants were all very nice to us.  The aspect of the experience that I am allowed to tell you about (and will be focusing on in today’s blog) is our stay in a nearby hotel the night before filming.

As an actor who has been on a national tour, Ash has stayed in some very good, odd and awful hotels across the country.  When I was working at UK Theatre and doing talks around the country I had my own fair share of bizarre accommodation experiences, but we both very much enjoyed our sojourn in one of the well-known hotels run by a company whose name rhymes with Shmemier Bin.  Even though we’ve been house mates for just over seven months, it was a decidedly new experience for us as a pair.  Here are some of the aspects of our stay which made it a bit different from our usual evenings:

  • Sharing a double bed: we’ve shared a bed many times before, but on this occasion we were in an unfamiliar room.  This meant that when she rolled over and accidentally hit me in the middle of the night, Ash woke up a bit, freaked out that there was someone else there, and hit me again.  Not out of rage or fear, just confusion.  I think as soon as she heard me say “ouch” she worked out who I was and where we were, and happily fell back asleep.  I stayed awake being cross for a few minutes.
  • Having a picnic: Ash and I met at the hotel with a lot of snacks to share, including some cheese biscuits that my lovely mum had made (and which Ash ate a surprising number of, given that she’d just been out for a slap-up meal with her dad).  Again, as house mates we have spent many an evening sitting on our sofa working our way through an unseemly amount of food, but in a new place it felt like a special treat.  If either of us had been to boarding school, it probably would have reminded us of midnight feasts in the dorms.
  • Having yet more food: I cannot extol highly enough the virtues of a breakfast that you’ve not had to cook for yourself.  A glorious buffet of eggs, bacon, sausages, etc. made our 6am start much more manageable, and again, the free coffee went down a treat.
  • Behind closed doors: since there were other contestants in need of overnight accommodation and the rooms had all been booked at the same time by the BBC production team, it shouldn’t have surprised me to discover that the rooms along our corridor were all occupied by people in the same sort of excited/nervous mood as us.  Having said that, walking past a row of closed doors and hearing various voices chanting the periodic table, the kings and queens of England and the capital cities of the world did freak me out a little bit.  This was especially disconcerting given that our main form of revision was gazing vacantly at a map of the world and watching an episode of Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums.
  • Unfamiliar faces: I have never had to try and sleep in a room with a large picture of Lenny Henry’s face on the table, and having done it once, I hope that it will never happen again.  Ironically, this image was being used to promote the hotel’s reputation for guests always having a good night’s sleep, but I can tell you now that nothing is less conducive to proper rest than the image at the top of this blog post.  No offence to Lenny, but at home Ash and I have pictures of our friends and loved ones around us, not famous people trying to kip.

Have a stupendously joyful Saturday.

Pointless Preparation

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Hello, dear reader!  How are you getting on?

I admit that I’m a control freak (although we prefer the term “relaxationally challenged”).  It probably explains why I like directing so much, and why I enjoyed being the social secretary of a drama society when I was at university.  I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and when.  Unfortunately I’m not very organised, so despite my best intentions I very rarely have a clue what on earth is going on.

This weekend is a perfect example.  I have to be in several different places over the course of a few days, and I have not yet figured out transport, timings or how much clothing to pack.  (While we’re at it, what the heck have I done with my suitcase?)  One of the places I have to be is a television studio in Elstree, because tomorrow Ash and I will finally be going on Pointless.

I am, if I may use the common parlance, pooing myself a bit.  I know that this brilliant opportunity has been on the cards for a while, but because there were so many dates that Ash and I couldn’t do I sort of convinced myself that it wasn’t really going to happen.  Except now it is.  Oh crap.  I mean, oh good.

In this situation the only control I have is over my last-minute revision.  I should be poring over a map of the world learning all the countries that border Germany, or finding lists of obscure films featuring Sandra Bullock.  I will probably do both of those things later.  This morning my plan is to write this blog, dye my roots and find my favourite nail varnish.  I have never been one for sensible prioritising (or being able to find suitcases, apparently).

I think that a lot of people have this problem: when we are worried about something, we deliberately under-prepare for it so that we can always claim “well, I didn’t try very hard” if we fail.  It’s a philosophy that got me a very mixed bag of GCSE results, but given that I am knocking on twenty-five I should probably have grown out of that approach by now.

It’s a bit late at this stage to do any serious learning, but I promise I will try.  It might be too late to change my personality and become sensible, well-prepared and knowledgeable, but at times like this we have to stay optimistic.  You never know what you can achieve if you try, even just a little bit.

Ash and I have to be at the studio appallingly early tomorrow, so I will update you lovely people on our progress when we’ve finished recording.  Wish us luck!

Have a fantastic Thursday.

P.S. Ash just called me to tell that the Piccadilly line is on fire.  This does not bode well…

Did You Know…?

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Hello, reader!  How’s your weekend going so far?

Today I wanted to take the opportunity to round up on a few things I’ve mentioned this week: following this post, I did indeed call my friend Becca, and today I will be hopping on a train to see her.  I foresee gallons of coffee, a Sunday roast and a very long catch up.  Marvellous.

I did visit some friends yesterday, but we didn’t end up putting furniture together.  Instead we watched Point Break, and I have to say that “Why don’t you astonish me, shitface?” is my new favourite question.  (I will save it for people less lovely than you, reader, don’t worry.)

The “will we won’t we?” saga of Pointless rattles on, and at this point Ash and I have no idea whether we’ll ever find dates that work.  In the meantime, I will keep revising.  Here are some of the interesting things I’ve discovered so far:

1) Joseph Merrick (AKA The Elephant Man) had something in common with Amy Winehouse and James Dean: he died aged 27.

2) Before she married Paul McCartney, Linda Eastman went out with Jimi Hendrix.  She also fancied John Lennon when she first met the Beatles.

3) Winnie the Pooh’s real name is Edward Bear.

4) David Cameron used to be president of the Oxfordshire Bee Keepers’ Association.

5) The word for swearing when you stub your toe is lalochezia.

6) More than a fifth of British households don’t own a kettle.  (Quick question: how do you people LIVE?)

7) France contains six villages called Silly, twelve called Billy and two called Prat.

8) Alaska is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in America.

9) Diamonds boil.  (I know.  What the actual hell.)  Apparently this happens at 4027 degrees Centigrade.

10) Samuel Taylor Coleridge invented rock-climbing, which I wish I’d known during sixth form when we were studying Kubla Khan.  That poem’s got extreme sports (and opium) written all over it.

I hope you find these titbits of information interesting.  If not, take it up with Stephen Fry.  Have a glorious Sunday!

Gloria Gaynor is Rooting For You

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Good morning!  How are you doing?  I hope you’ve got nice plans for your weekend.

For those of you who read this blog regularly (ish), you may be wondering why I haven’t yet written a post about what it was like recording Pointless.  There is a very good reason for this, and it’s a very serious, grown-up, intellectual reason: um…we haven’t been to the studio yet.  Due to numbers and other unpredictable things, we’ve had our studio dates postponed for a couple of weeks, but we are assured that this is a good sign and that the production team don’t usually bother providing people with alternative dates.  So that’s nice.

The other potential problem is that my house mate has an acting job in Salisbury that week, so she might not be able to attend one of our new studio dates.  I really hope that there’s a solution to the clash, but if not, we might not be going on Pointless after all.  Sniff.  It’s fine..all this revision for nothing…hours wasted on Sporcle…poring over QI books late into the night…but it’s fine.  I will survive, as per the wishes of Gloria Gaynor.

In general, human beings are capable of surviving all sorts of things: bereavement, break-ups, Soho on a Friday night.  Some things are more difficult to survive than others, but you are more than capable of coming out of an emotionally draining situation with your head held high.  Here are a few things that I think you should do to secure your survival in any emotional hardship:

1) Look at the long term

So difficult to do, especially if you are very angry or upset, but picturing yourself in a few years’ time can be really helpful when you’re trying to recover from a nasty situation.  For example, in a few years’ time you will be completely over your break-up.  In the future you might run into your ex from time to time.  Everybody wants to ‘win’ a break-up by being physically fitter, more successful and preferably going out with someone better-looking than the ex.  If you want to ‘win’ this break-up, it’s better to go to the gym than stay in bed eating ice-cream, even though it’s what you really want to do right now.  Put down the spoon.

2) Talk to nice people

Well, obviously.  Talking to nasty people is no fun at all.  What I mean is, it’s ok to be struggling with something and want to discuss it, whether you want practical advice or need a bit of a vent.  Choose your confidant wisely and make sure that you know what you want from the exchange.  I’ve made the mistake before of going to one of my clear-thinking, super-practical friends with a problem.  I just wanted a bit of a moan, and he sent me away with a colour-coded to do list and a Gantt chart.

3) Be kind to yourself

This covers all sorts of things: eat healthily, sleep at proper times, drink lots of water.  I know it sounds boring and mumsy-ish, but there’s a reason why people say weird things like “at least you’ve got your health”.  Having your health is important because it sets you up to cope with everything else in life.  And seriously, put down the ice-cream and go to the gym.  You’re not winning this break-up yet!

4) Use it

As those of you who read my blog post about The Hard Man the other day will know, I firmly believe the best thing to do in a bad situation is find a way to use it to your advantage.  Sometimes that’s not possible straight away, but if you’re looking for silver linings they don’t come any shinier than discovering a way to make a crisis into a success.  For example, losing my job didn’t feel like such a good thing at the time, but now I’m deliriously happy because I get to write all day every day.  Sure, a regular income would be lovely, but I’m doing what makes me happy, which is so much more important.

5) Aim for happiness

Don’t aim for survival.  Aim for the top.  Work towards your biggest goals, your most cherished ambitions and your ideal situations.  If you don’t quite make it you will at least have tried, and you’ll be somewhere between happy and surviving.  If you aim for survival and you fail, where the heck does that leave you?

The other thing about being happy is that it’s the best possible revenge against someone who treated you badly.  Most importantly, you deserve to be happy.  You’re lovely.  Gloria Gaynor and I are rooting for you.

Have a splendid Thursday!

Revision Panic

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Good morning to you, dear reader!  I hope that you’ve been enjoying this sunny weekend.  Is it barbecue weather yet, d’you think?

If you’ve read this post from a couple of weeks ago, you will already know that my house mate and I recently auditioned to go on the television show Pointless.  I am delighted to announce that our audition was successful, and on Tuesday we will potter off to the studio in hopes of being on the show.

Our appearance isn’t entirely guaranteed, because they have to allow for things like a good spread of age groups, specialist subjects, unexpected drop-outs, etc.  So basically we’ll turn up on Tuesday, but if the other contestants are all drama graduates in their mid-twenties with an unfortunate propensity to get distracted by shiny things, Ash and I might not make it onto that show.  C’est la show business.

Although we’re both very excited, Ash and I have come up with two pretty major concerns.  The first is that we’ve been asked not to wear black clothing or patterns; respectively speaking, that screws me (who never entirely grew out of my ill-advised goth phase) and Ash (who loves a pair of patterned tights) over pretty thoroughly.  We had a mooch round the charity shops yesterday and found a couple of potential outfits, but we each have to take FIVE clothing options to the studio for the wardrobe people to choose from.  FIVE.  If we’re not including hoodies and pyjamas, I’m not sure I even OWN five outfits.  Although my red hoodie is quite presentable, and it’s very comfy…no.  Stop it.  I can’t go on television looking like I just fell out of bed.

I know it shouldn’t worry me too much what I wear, since it’s a show about knowledge rather than appearances, but still: we’re going to be on television.  We don’t want to look rubbish.  Apparently they’re going to do our make-up for us as well, which Ash and I both baulked at.  Ash is a connoisseur of vintage make-up stylings, and is more than capable of making her face look its lovely best.  I usually go for the Claudia Winkleman/panda look myself, and I think it works for me, so I would prefer to be left alone with my gallons of black eye-liner and vampish mascara, thank you very much.

The second concern (which is actually a bigger one than the clothing issue, I promise) is that I don’t think I actually know anything.  Nothing useful, at any rate.  If you put me on QI I would absolutely rock out (mostly because I’ve seen every episode a thousand times, but also) because I’m the queen of the random fact.  But I don’t know the kings and queens of England, or the periodic table, or ANYTHING about geography.  I’ve been watching some episodes of Pointless this week as research, and I can tell you now that if a round about the England cricket team or celebrity culture comes up when we’re on there, I am screwed.  Ash is a clever girl and an excellent actress, so if we get a bad topic I’m sure she’ll style it out, but odds are I will just stand there in open-mouthed horror.  The other possibility is that I will swear loudly, which is probably not the way to go…

Even stuff that I think I do know about, I’m now beginning to second-guess.  When you apply to go on the show, you have to put three specialist subjects on the form.  I put Theatre (I have a Drama degree and I run a theatre company- fair enough), Literature (I read a lot) and Dad’s Army (mainly a joke, but I do love that show).  I HAVE STARTED WATCHING EPISODES OF DAD’S ARMY AS A FORM OF REVISION.  I’m not even enjoying them, because I’m too scared that Alexander Armstrong is going to ask me an obscure question that I won’t be able to answer!  My life has turned into this scene from Short Circuitexcept that I’m panicky rather than curious.

The obvious solution is to calm the heck down, have a cup of tea and brush up on whatever we realistically have to time to revise.  This is perfectly sage and sensible advice.  I will endeavour to do just that.  But could someone please explain to me why, when I was always terrible at exams, have never had a good memory for general knowledge and am almost twenty-five, I have deliberately put myself into a position where I am forced to revise?  Glutton for punishment, perhaps.  Or just a subconscious craving to look stupid on television.  If that’s the case, I sort of wish I’d just applied to Big Brother

Enjoy your Sunday everyone.  Go to the park or something while the weather’s nice.

Unbelievably Specific Knowledge

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Given that I no longer have to commute to central London every day, getting up at six o’clock this morning felt very strange (and not a little unfair).  However, I did have a good reason for being awake at the time that my parents refer to as ‘sparrow fart’: my house mate Ash and I had an audition for the television show Pointless.

For those of you haven’t seen the show, get yourself over to BBC iPlayer and watch a few episodes.  It’s so addictive.  The basic premise is that before the show, the production team have asked one hundred people to think of to think of as many ___ as they can in one hundred seconds.  The players have to think of the most obscure (but correct answers); if they come up with a correct answer that none of the pre-show one hundred thought of, the answer is deemed pointless.  For example, in this morning’s audition we had to try to think of the most obscure united football team; I answered Newcastle, which forty-nine people had thought of, so we scored forty-nine.  Given that the idea is to get the lowest score possible this wasn’t great news, but at least I didn’t say Manchester, which would have given us a whopping ninety-eight points.

One of the things that I really like about the show is that you play in pairs: friends, colleagues, spouses and siblings team up and try to balance out each other’s areas of knowledge.  Ash knows a fair amount about celebrity culture (which I think I’m probably allergic to on some level), and I know an obscene amount about Dad’s Army (which Ash is definitely allergic to, and still upset that I forced her to watch an episode once).  Between us we are pretty good on literature, theatre and television, but also woefully ignorant of all things geographical.

At the start of the audition we had to take a general knowledge quiz.  General knowledge doesn’t really exist anymore: the internet has broadened people’s fields of understanding considerably, and there are all sorts of other contributory factors that affect someone’s knowledge base.  The type of school you went to, your cultural heritage, your hobbies, your social circle and your career path all determine what kind of areas you know about.  Someone who went to a public or private school will potentially have a much firmer grip on the history of cricket, for example, than someone who attended a comprehensive.  (That’s hypothetical, by the way.  I’m not suggesting that that’s applicable to everyone, so don’t any of you Eton toffs come after me with a toasting fork.)  Facts and figures that pub quiz regulars used to take for granted have now been obscured by the sheer volume of bizarre and fascinating facts that you can discover in just one sitting of the programme QI.

I love QI.  I love knowing lots of random, useless facts.  I collect trivia like other people collect…er…stamps, if that’s still a thing.  This obsession with compiling snippets of information is also why I love pub quizzes.  The last one I went to was in Finsbury Park, and my team had a fairly wide range of topics covered between them, although in fairness my sister was basically covering music and geography all on her own. My frustration at missing an answer at one of these events is always balanced out by my excitement at finding out what the actual answer is (nerd).  Actually, we came a fairly respectable third in that quiz, and won a whole bag of crisps as our prize.  A bit stingy for a team of six people, but we were proud.

I wonder whether the abolition of general knowledge is a good or bad thing: on the one hand, it makes it more difficult to create pub quizzes, game shows and so on that can reliably be said to create a level playing field.  On the other hand, it means that almost everyone I meet and speak to can tell me something new and interesting that I wouldn’t have found out otherwise.  Even friends of mine who are interested in similar things to me – books, films, television, cheese – have a mental stockpile of intriguing information that I don’t.  I like finding out stuff, and I like talking to people: so specific knowledge is, I think, a very good thing.

Have a superlatively awesome Monday.