Tag Archives: work

Where the Hell is Simon Pegg When You Need Him?

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Hello, lovely reader!  How the devil are you?

I don’t know whether it’s the heat or Brexit or an angry Norse god having a tantrum, but there’s some dreadful stuff going on with my social circle at the moment.  Everyone seems to be breaking up, getting into arguments, losing jobs or just generally feeling sad.  Imagine the scene in Shaun of the Dead when Dylan Moran wants to kill Penelope Wilton and everyone’s getting hysterical and Liz screams “PLEASE can we all just CALM THE F*** DOWN!”  – That’s the gist of things for us at the moment, except that no one is actually calming down…on the bright side, no one is threatening to shoot anyone’s mum.  So that’s nice.

Apart from all of the serious problems, there are also a lot of people who are giving themselves an identity crisis by accidentally reliving their adolescence.  For example:

“I think I’ve got a crush on someone.”
“Really?”
“Yeah.  I don’t want to sleep with him, I just want to daydream about his hair and giggle.”

Or,

“I bought bubblegum the other day.”
“Are you twelve?!”
“Oh God, don’t.  I dug out my Linkin Park CD as well.”
“Good heavens.”

Worst of all, there are a few people who are going through quite serious bad patches in an adolescent way:

“And then SHE was all ‘bla bla bla’, and I was like ‘errrrrr, no!’ And then the OTHER guy was all like, I dunno, weird, and then I just turned round and was all, ‘no way’.  You know?”
“…So you left your job?”
“Yeah.”

There is most definitely something strange in our neighbourhood.

Everyone knows that the hardest thing about watching your friends struggle is that that’s often all you can do: watch.  When I was seven I got cast as the fairy godmother in the Year 2 production of Cinderella (five stars from the Independent and Time Out’s pick of the week, thank you very much), and the whole beneficent-sorceress-covered-in-glitter thing really went to my head.  To this day I cannot understand why I do not own a real, fully functional magic wand.   I don’t think any of us like not being able to fix things.

When we’re kids we think that everything can and will be fixed, either by an authority figure or by our own, unshakeable confidence in an ethical code (which is usually passed on by said authority figure and begins with “Well MY mum says…”).  As adults we are less equipped to respond to our friends’ problems, partly because of social convention – it’s not really the done thing to interfere with other people’s relationships, jobs etc. – and partly because we actually have no idea what the hell we’re doing in our own lives.

The way I see it, there are two metaphorical ways of handling these bad patches: you either go to Mum’s, kill Philip (Sorry Philip), grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all of this to blow over, or you get out there and start killing the zombies with a Sade record and a cricket bat.  Both approaches have their own merits, I suppose.

Whichever way you and your friends choose to act, I think the important thing is just to be present.  If your friends are having an absolute shocker and you yourself are not entirely convinced that the “capable adult” costume looks good on you, standing shoulder to shoulder against the zombies is really your only option.  Sometimes it seems easier to run away or hide when things are getting tricky, but then you’re alone, and no one wants to be alone when the apocalypse hits.   Watching catastrophes might be frustrating, but it means the world to your friends to have you there with them.  See if you can rope Simon Pegg in as well; he’s probably good in a crisis.

Have a gorgeous weekend!

 

 

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From Page to Stage (via Rage) – a GIF Guide to get to the Fringe

Hello, lovely reader.  How’s everything with you?

I must apologise for my prolonged absence – this is about 20% due to a bit of a confidence crisis, 10% due to laziness and 70% due to being completely brain-swamped by Tumbling After, the fabulously physical show that I’m taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with RedBellyBlack Productions.

It’s a gorgeous show that combines all kinds of ideas and disciplines, but as a devised piece it’s been an enormous (and welcome) challenge.  Everyone’s journey from page to stage is different, and the great thing about the Fringe is that you can take almost any performance genre imaginable up there and find a receptive audience.  Comedy, theatre, spoken word and performance art (and every other sub-genre and hybrid of those) show up on the Fringe programme every year.  Isn’t it amazing that the arts hold so much variety and such a wide range of skills?  (I’M TALKING TO YOU, CAMERON, YOU UNCULTURED SWINE.)

Ahem.  Sorry.  Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about getting ready for the Fringe this year is that, no matter which genre or sub-heading you’ve picked for your show, you go through a lot of the same stages:

Realising that your show idea is actually pretty darn good

Realising how much work this great idea is going to need

Refusing to acknowledge the huge amount of stress on the horizon

Getting into the swing of it

The first time you really and truly force yourself to look at the budget

The second, third and fourth time you look at the budget

The amazing moment when you can see how it’s all going to work

When the first cast/production team member cracks up

When it’s YOUR turn to crack up

Realising that you’ve only got a few weeks left

Still knowing, even after all the stress, that your show really is a great idea.

If you’d like to know more about Tumbling After and the magical mischief we’re getting up to, search #TumblingAfter on Twitter – there are lots of ridiculous photos and short videos to enjoy.

Have a cracking Wednesday!

Working Wonders

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Hello, reader!  How was your weekend?  I hope you’re feeling well-rested and ready for your Monday.

Today I’d like to pay homage to colleagues.  In the working world we have no way of knowing what kinds of people we will end up alongside, or how much their company will influence us throughout our lives.  I have been lucky enough to work with some truly brilliant people, and I hope that you have, too.  Here are a few examples of co-workers we could all do with:

The Boss You’ve Accidentally Turned Into
Classic example of my first boss’ standard behaviour: I turned up to work one day with no make-up on and, as sod’s law dictates, I ran into an ex-boyfriend on my lunch break.  My boss’ response was pretty straightforward: “It’s your own fault, girl.  Why do you think I’m always dressed up, even when it’s just to come to this place?  You’ve got to be prepared.”  Wise, wise woman.  I can’t claim to be as savvy (or as well-dressed) as she was, but sometimes I find myself using her turns of phrase and management tactics, which can only be a good thing.  We all resist turning into our parents, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with turning into our favourite bosses.

The Friend Who Keeps You Going
One of the only things that I miss about my last full-time job is the girl I sat next to in the office.  Over the weeks and months we discovered that we got on extremely well, and that we had some fairly important things in common.  When the job started to go sour and I was feeling pretty down about things, it was this colleague whom I confided in, and whose support was invaluable to me.  I hope that you never have a job that makes you sad, but if you do, I hope that someone in your office can make you smile.  Those people are godsends.

The Cool Kid You Randomly Get On Really Well With
I recently did a stint as a front of house supervisor type thingy on a large-scale kids’ show.  My second in command was absolutely brilliant, but here’s the funny thing: I remember sitting next to her in the group interview stages thinking “dear God, this girl is so cool.  I bet we have nothing in common.  And she’s just given a really good interview answer.  Bollocks.”  It’s nice to look back at that and realise that yes, she is insanely cool, but she’s also really good fun.  Not judging people based on first appearances turns out to be particularly important in the working world.

The One You Keep Hold Of
One of the weirdest aspects of leaving a job is that you can go from spending all of your time with a group of people, getting to know their habits and coffee preferences, and then suddenly not see them for ages.  In certain cases the friendships that you strike up with your colleagues can traverse job hopping, geographical relocation and even months of no contact.  It’s strange to look back over my employment history and see how many ex-colleagues have ended up being good friends, and where our lives have taken us.  Harry is a perfect example: we started out working together in a box office, and now he effectively runs my theatre company.  I’m very glad I kept hold of him, and I hope that you’ve got people from your working life who’ve stuck around for your real life.

I also hope that you have an amazing Monday, and that you get to listen to your favourite music on the way to work.

Stress Can Sod Off

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

Today I’d like to broach the awkward subject of anxiety; specifically, anxiety related to pressure and stress.  We all feel anxious, tense and worried at various points in our lives, and it can be petrifying (in the original sense of the word, i.e. it temporarily immobilises you).  Fun aside: when I was about eight years old, my family went on holiday to Norfolk and, good little Catholic clan that we are, we invited the local priest round for dinner one night.  Apropos of absolutely nothing, he kindly informed us that the word ‘petrified’ comes from the idea that the apostle Peter was the rock upon whom Christ built the Church, and that it basically means being as still and solid as a rock.  I have no idea how true this is.  Looking back as an adult, it doesn’t seem very likely.  I’ll look it up.  Anyway…

The problem with being immobilised by worry is that it prevents you from resolving the very things that are making you feel stressed.  Being so worried that you can’t think straight is no way to tackle your to do list, and giving yourself insomnia over a crisis is not going to do anyone any good.  So what the heck do we do about it?

Well, first things first: make that to do list.  Even if it’s full of jobs that that you’re sure you’ll never be able or in the mood to do, write them all down.  All of them.  Break bigger, scarier tasks into smaller ones, and include every single item that is giving you even the smallest amount of stress.  That way every item you tick off that list (including, if you like, “get out of bed”) gives you a sense of achievement, and it will make the daunting tasks seem less scary and separate from your day to day life.

Secondly, prioritise.  Which email has to be sent off first thing in the morning?  When is that job application due in?  Order the tasks in a way that honestly reflects which ones you need to do first.  If you’re anything like me (i.e. a hopeless procrastinator) you’ll probably find that those big, scary tasks have all ended up at the top of the list.  Ah…

Here’s what you do now.  You set yourself a goal – one scary task and two small ones, for example – to do today.  Be realistic about how much you will be able to do in the time that you have.  Don’t worry too much about tomorrow, or the next day, or the rest of the week.  One of the reasons that anxiety is so debilitating is because it forces us to look at the sheer enormity of our workload and it makes us feel overwhelmed.  Well, scrap that.  We only live one day at a time.

Intersperse your to do list with little rewards.  Keep it simple: a piece of chocolate, ten minutes on Facebook, a big cup of tea – and don’t integrate your treats with your tasks.  You won’t enjoy them if they’re alongside your stress.  Give yourself something to work towards, not something to distract yourself with.  Once you’ve achieved your goal, stop working for a minute and focus on enjoying your reward.

I know that this all sounds incredibly simple and obvious, but it’s surprising how little time we spend properly looking after ourselves and how, after years of exams and deadlines and suchlike, we don’t always give ourselves a chance when it comes to being productive.

So be nice to yourself, and have a stupendously brilliant Tuesday.

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week progressing?  Getting through your to do list at a pleasing pace, I hope?

“Team work” is one of those phrases that fills us with dread and fear.  This is because we secretly think that “team work” means “unable to think for yourself”, “willing to let others do your work” or, horror of horrors, “always up for those God-awful trust exercises that supposedly break the ice, but actually make everyone feel cripplingly embarrassed”.

What you discover very quickly in working world (particularly when you work in the arts) is that when it actually happens, team work is flipping brilliant.  Of course we should all have independent approaches, unique ideas and confidence in what we bring to the job as individuals, but we should also enjoy the many advantages that proper team work offers.

As you might remember from previous posts, I am currently working in a front of house team on a large-scale kids’ show in London.  The job is difficult and the show is not really aimed at my demographic, but the experience is ace.  As they say in The Lego Movie song, everything is cool when you’re part of a team.  Here are a few lovely things about team work that might dispel some of those trust exercise (shudder) memories:

In jokes – weeks, months and even years after the event, in jokes can help a team to feel connected to one another.  In jokes are also a good way to just have a bit of fun at work when the chips are down.

People understand why you’re stressed – if you turn to a colleague and go “aaaargh” (or something slightly more articulate), nine times out of ten they will get what you’re on about.  Not having to explain your stress and still managing to get sympathy is pretty darn efficient.

The play’s the thing – working with a whole bunch of people who care about the same project you do is brilliant, because you are constantly reminded that you are all working towards something bigger than any of you.  This can be scary and inspirational in equal measure, but it is always a motivator.

Down time – it is so nice to unwind in the company of people whose day you’ve shared.  There’s a sense of mutual achievement and good humour when my colleagues and I get the train home from work together, even though most of us have at least an hour’s commute ahead of us.  Stopping at the amazing frozen yoghurt place on our way from work to the station helps, too.

Going crazy – work can sometimes take over our lives a bit, and when it does it’s nice to know that the people you work with are going crazy at exactly the same rate, in pretty much the same way and for precisely the same reason.  For instance, the kids’ show I’m working includes some very distinctive music.  Surprisingly, it’s actually very cheering to hear my colleagues humming it all day long, because it means that I’m not alone.  The one time that it’s good to crazy is when you’re in great company.

Have a delightful Friday.

Why Are We Waiting?

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Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  Excited about your weekend?  Oh good, me too.

Time is a tricky git, and it seems to speed up and slow down according to its own capricious will.  We have all fallen victim to this phenomenon: the last half hour at work on Friday feels like an eternity, but Netflix can take up an entire evening in what feels like seconds.

Some stuff just takes flipping ages for no good reason.  For example, going to bed.  In theory we should get tired, get into bed and fall asleep.  In practice, going to bed takes a lot of work: getting clothes ready for the next day, brushing your teeth, changing into pjs, taking make-up off, locking up the house, switching everything off, getting into bed, replying to the texts you forgot about earlier, swearing and getting back out of bed because you’ve left your phone charger in a different room, grumbling about your phone and demanding to know why it doesn’t know how to use less battery power if it’s so bloody smart, getting back into bed, setting your alarm for the next day and then not being able to fall asleep for ages because you’re sure you’ve forgotten about something.

The same sort of thing occurs when we are waiting for something good to happen in life: we feel that we have jumped through all manner of hoop-type obstacles and worked hard for a good end result.  This is particularly true when we are waiting for our degree results, or to hear back about a job.  We’ve done everything we were supposed to, so why are we waiting?  What is taking so flipping long?

When I left university and was a bit depressed about having no career to speak of as yet, and the months seemed to be dragging by with no hope of progress, my beloved friend Mario very wisely told me not to get bogged down by the situation.  His reasoning went thusly: first of all, pretty much everyone we knew was in the same position.  Secondly, when we look back on our post-graduation years as elderly folk, they will seem like a tiny part of our lives.  What dragged on and depressed us as twenty-somethings will seem like a momentary blip of time when we are older.

Ah, you are thinking that that’s all very well and good, but we’re not old yet, are we?  Some of us are still in that nasty post-uni slump.  I agree.  Unfortunately, at this point I have to recommend something that I would find incredibly difficult to do myself: we must be patient.  Being patient is the most irritating thing in the world, because it is a passive, boring and frustrating state that forces us to relinquish control over a situation.  I completely get that.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much of an alternative.

When we are waiting, we must be patient, and when things are going well, we must enjoy them.  No matter how long it actually takes us to get ready for bed, we do eventually get to sleep.  No matter how long it takes your friend to get ready, you will eventually leave the house and go clubbing.  No matter how long it takes to load, you will at some point get to watch that amusing YouTube video.  There’s a logical ending to all the ridiculous faffing.  Even when it feels like you’re just doing the same things day after day, or that nothing you do is making any difference to your success, have faith that you are always moving closer to your goal.  The passing of time, even when it’s infuriating, is a kind of progress in itself.

Have a magical Friday.

What Kind of Day Are You Having?

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Good morning, dear reader!  How’s your weekend going?

Firstly, I’m very sorry that I didn’t get time to write a blog post yesterday.  I have failed you, and I am accordingly ashamed.  I can only plead as an excuse that I have had absolutely no free time recently, and I am in a constant state of being almost asleep.

This morning, however, I am awake and alert (and a bit high on coffee), and I am determined to make my absence up to you by writing an extra joyful blog post.  Here we go.

Today I would like to discuss what determines a day as good or bad, and what kind of things we let affect the balance.  If we miss our train, receive some bad news or have an argument with someone we tend to dismiss the day as a write-off.  If we receive good news, go on a lovely date or something funny happens at work, we decide that we are having a good day.

Deciding how good, bad or boring a day is based on small incidents is very central to human nature, but it’s alarming how quickly we make the choice.  If something slightly annoying happens to us as soon as we leave the house, we sometimes decide in advance that this is going to be one of “those” days.  I would like to use yesterday as an example of why we are wrong to do so.

Yesterday I woke up late, was feeling a bit ill, and had a hectic day at work involving tricky customers, calling an ambulance for someone who was unwell, technology failing and other small stresses that inevitably accompany front of house theatre work.  I am very lucky to be working with a brilliant bunch of people on this show, but the fact is that we are all dying ever so slightly at the moment.

We had all, by about half past eleven in the morning, decided that we were communally having a bad day.  Luckily, at about half past three in the afternoon something happened that turned the day around entirely.  Something small, but very significant.

The show I’m currently working on is aimed at very small children, and at various points during the day there are a lot of families milling about in the venue.  At around half past three I saw a very small boy wriggling around in his pram, clearly pretty tired, hot and irritable.  At that moment, another family arrived next to the little boy’s, including a similarly young girl who was also in a pushchair, and also looking fairly stressed.

The families were strangers who just happened to be next to one another in a queue, but at that moment the little boy and the little girl made eye contact, and they both broke into enraptured smiles.  They stopped fussing and fretting, and just gazed at each other in silent awe.  The girl’s family moved away after a moment, but the magical moment didn’t end there: the children kept staring at each other in wonder until the girl’s family was out of the room.

I’m pretty sure that today I saw love at first sight happen between two toddlers, and even though it was a tiny incident, it unquestionably made my day.  I am telling you about it, you lovely thing, for two reasons: firstly, I hope that it makes you smile and warms the cockles of your heart.  Secondly, it reiterates the point that I’m trying to make: we should not allow the amalgamation of small inconveniences to blind us to the joy that happens all around us.  If we are going to let small bad things ruin our day, we must also be willing to let small brilliant things make them better.

In the spirit of which, I wish you the best Sunday since records began.

Sarcastickled: Blog Tour

Good morning, darling reader.  How goes the world with you?

My dear and hilarious friend Laura Lexx asked me to join in a “blog tour” where I talk about me and my writing stuff.  Her blog can be read here.  It’s being passed round bloggers who love each other. Lovely idea, no?  There are 4 questions that need answering.  Let’s do this.

What Am I Working On?

Er…that’s an awkward question.  It brings out the Sunday evening, guilt-ridden “OH GOD I HAVE NOT DONE MY HOMEWORK” side of me that inevitably makes me feel slightly grumpy.  In real terms, I am working on my film script for the Sky version of Chris is Dead, which is also a play which will be on in Edinburgh from 1st-9th August.  Do come and see it.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre?

It doesn’t.  My genre is a richly populated and well-fuelled arena that positively throngs with lively discussion and worthy conversation.  The things I have to say are just louder and more grammatically correct, that’s all.

Why Do I Do What I Do?

I’ve always liked words as a means of connecting with people, and although I tried to be a “proper” grown up who works nine to five for a living, I discovered quite quickly that it doesn’t suit me.  There are all manner of other complicated and boring reasons why I write, but at the heart of things I do it because it makes me happy, and because I want it to make YOU happy.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I get up, I frown at the kettle, I sit at my desk and I write down the first thing that I have an opinion about.

No, really, I take ideas from television, conversations with friends, etc., and then I tend to scribble a load of nonsense onto whichever surface is nearest (up to and including my own arm).  After that I try to make some sense out of the notion before I subject you, my lovely reader, to the inevitable nonsense.  I like writing so much because it doesn’t really matter what my process is: the end result is that you laugh, smile, cry or get angry.  I hope.  I genuinely don’t care how you feel about what I say, as long as you feel something.  Apathy is the enemy of everything we hold dear, including Crunch Corners and student discounts.

I will be recommending the marvellous Fran Paterson for taking this on next. Her blog is here.

10 Things All Theatre Types Do

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Hello, you lovely thing.  How’s this week treating you so far?

Firstly, I should apologise for the fact that I might not have time to blog every day for the next few weeks.  I’ve just started working on a kids’ show in Greenwich, and I will essentially be eating, sleeping and breathing children’s theatre for a while.  I will do my best to keep up with you lovely people, but please do bear with me if I don’t quite manage it.

Today’s blog is (predictably) a theatre-based list of stuff that happens to everyone when they start working on a new show, particularly in a front of house capacity:

1) You work out very quickly who is going to make you laugh during the nightmare shifts – look out for the people who tend to mutter witticisms under their breath during briefings and people who are good at pulling silly faces.

2) You remember how much fun it is to use radios – you’re basically getting paid to play with walkie talkies.

3) You make a new best friend – in my case, one of my fellow supervisors has already “claimed” me as his latest fag hag.  I feel so honoured.

4) You end up working with someone you already know – I love this about theatre.  Nine times out of ten, we end up reconnecting with a friend or ex-colleague in a wholly unexpected context, and that really helps us to relax into new working situations.

5) You find a fittie – don’t look at me like that.  Everyone does this.  We’re not proud of it, but we all like to work out as early as possible whether there’s going to be anyone in our team who is nice to look at.  Just look at, mind.  We’re professionals, after all.

6) You know the show off by heart within two shifts.

7) You are insanely bored of the show within three shifts.

8) You passionately hate the show within three and a half shifts.

9) You find and immediately set up camp in the nearest decent pub.

10) Cheesy as it sounds, you fall in love with theatre all over again.

Right, I’m off to Greenwich to bring joy to hundreds of children.  You have yourself the most enjoyable Thursday of every Thursday ever.

Weird Wisdom

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Good morning, dear reader!  How are you doing?

Our lives are filled with wise and wonderful (and slightly weird) people.  My favourite thing about my weird/wise friends is the bizarrely pithy stuff they come out with from time to time, and today I would like to share a few of those with you.

My friend Lauren and I are very similar, particularly in terms of how much we worry about things (i.e. way too much).  She and I both have an unfortunate tendency to over-think stuff, which is both bad and good: bad because it takes up quite a lot of our time, but good because we never have to explain ourselves to each other.  Recently we were having a long, involved and fairly over-thought conversation about stuff we’ve said that we wish we could take back, and the idea that you can ruin a lovely situation by saying something prattish.  Lauren came out with this nugget of wisdom: “You can’t say something irreparable to the right person.” It’s true that we all say things from time to time that we wish we hadn’t, but Lauren is absolutely right: if someone really loves you and understands you, you can always fix whatever silly thing you’ve said.  If they won’t let you fix it, they’re probably not a keeper.

Another friend of mine has an incredibly scary, fraught and high-pressure job, and it is still a wonder to me that she doesn’t spend all of her free time drinking wine, muttering and rocking back and forth in a corner.  She is actually a very upbeat and lovely human being who is always up for new experiences, which produces very mixed results.  (For example, she’s just gone camping for a week, and I’m not convinced that she will have packed anything except coffee and sandals.)  I love that my friend is so good at seizing life’s opportunities, but I love this statement of hers even more: “I should really Google things before I agree to them.”  Shouldn’t we all?  Life is for living, but with a due sense of caution and a clear understanding of what the plan is.

Last but by no means least, one of my favourite things about living with a close friend is that we have learned to appreciate (or at least tolerate) all sorts of weird behaviour from one another.  We reached a pinnacle of love and friendship fairly recently when Ash gave me this (sort-of) compliment: “I really enjoy how sometimes you sound like a Greek man.”  I wasn’t aware that I did, but if I do, I’m glad that my best friend enjoys it.  It’s very important to surround yourself with people who enjoy the weird things about you.

Speaking of which, two of my friends stayed over last night, so I should probably go and offer them beverages.  Have a miraculous Sunday.  Surprise someone with a romantic gesture or something.