It’s felt like a long week, a very long week. I’ve had hardly any work on, for a while now, which is always a worry, and always seems to come out of the blue. Freelancers are either snowed under with half a dozen projects they can’t say no to, but which always seem to arrive at the same time. Or they’re constantly refreshing their inboxes, convinced there’s a technical error somewhere, because they’ve had zero emails from people asking them to do stuff. This month, so far, it’s been the latter. Not that I ever sit still, because if there are no reviews to write for restaurants I’ve never been to, then I’ll be working on the stuff I really want to write; the scripts, the stories, the tales I really want to tell but never get paid for.
In Deane World, my writing falls into two distinct categories. First, there’s the stuff I have to do to earn a wage, the stuff that just about pays for the mortgage and the chicken fillets. I have a few regular clients, for whom I write things like travel articles, consumer reviews, features etc. And most of you know that I write rude stuff, too, for both private clients and established, shameless filth merchants. I also ghostwrite the website of a very successful Hollywood escort girl, who is probably one of the most professional and friendly clients I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. No two weeks are the same, on any job, and I’m usually just grateful that I usually have ‘something’, because for freelancers everywhere right now, it’s a bastard out there.
The second category, is the ‘real stuff’; the scripts, fiction, movie treatments, pitches etc, all the stories inside me that I want to tell. But I do this for no money, because that’s the way it works. In this industry, the writer is usually the last person to get paid, if they get paid at all. In the long, interminable road towards ‘getting something made’, investors won’t part with any cash, or even let you through the door, until they’ve seen a script. So someone’s got to write it. For nothing. And that’s me.
I have to do all the freelancing jobs just to stay afloat, They pay absolute peanuts (in fact, being paid real peanuts would work out more profitable), but I have to believe that one day HBO are going to see the light and pay me a million pounds for the series that’s going to change the face of television. Or something.
In the good old days, there used to be something called ‘development money’. You’d go to the production company with a great idea, and they’d actually give you money to go away and write the script, which is the way most jobs work, after all. You do the graft, your employer pays you a wage while you do it. These days, however, you have to practically write a whole bloody series, before a producer will even put the kettle on for you. Even then, it takes them six months to even acknowledge they’ve received it.
This week, then, I may have missed the mortgage (again), but I have had time to get my head into some very exciting projects. I’m working with others on two films, plus my own 6-part drama series. It’s amazing how much you can get through in a few days when there’s nothing else to think about. I haven’t even procrastinated as much as I usually do, and I’m convinced that’s down to the healthy eating.
Last Sunday, it was mum’s roast dinner, which I’d been kind of wary of, because it was the first roast we’d had since I’d started this still-doomed attempt at living longer. I’d met them on the Saturday, to watch the Norwich game in the Victoria Cross. My usual tipple is VDC (vodka Diet Coke), because it’s very low calorie. But it’s so bloody expensive to drink when you’re out, that I was happy to go halves with mum on a bottle of Pinot. Then another one. One bottle of wine is about 600 calories. If I’d stuck to vodka, I’d have left the pub only 250 calories heavier (based on 5 glasses). I hadn’t even eaten anything, yet.
Because we were buoyed by the result (any excuse…), we dived into Mr Tesco at Hanover Street on the way to the bus, and I purchased a bottle of Everyday Vodka, which should more accurately have been labelled Allday Hangover Vodka. Buying spirits is no different from buying wine or beer. You get what you pay for. If you love a good Pinot Grigio, but want to save a couple of quid by lifting an Everyday White Wine off the shelf instead, then you’re just asking for it. When I felt myself reaching for said cheapo vodka, which was exactly half the price of the Smirnoff, I knew, I knew, I would regret it.
Once back at Mossley Hill Towers, the Olds sat there smugly with their Campo Viejo and ‘Finest’ Pinot, while I supped victoriously at my 50p VDC. Obviously, four drinks later, my head was exploding, and my dad was reading the label on the vodka bottle, to see if it also stripped paint, too. For tea, they taunted me yet further, by tucking into French bread, pate, cheese and those lovely little mini pork pies which mum needlessly slices up into quarters. She mmmm-ed and ooooh-ed at how particularly gorgeous the Boursin was tasting, as I tucked into my Healthy Options chicken breast in tomato and basil sauce. Which was very nice, just not as nice as a buttered baguette smeared in Boursin would have been.
I secreted myself away in my room when it looked like they were actually going to put The X Factor on (they didn’t, they were just playing with me), but my head was banging so much, I needed a dark room anyway. A YouTube episode of Bergerac put me in a slightly better mood, but adding up my daily calories I still found that, for the fifth Saturday in a row, I was well and truly over my limit. Never mind. Six days to recoup the overindulgence.
Actually, make that five. Sunday dinner! Oh my heavenly goodness, I’d completely forgotten about it. It was only when the unmistakeable scent of boiling cauliflower wafted up the stairs and into my room, that I realised I had a mountain of a calorie-dodging day ahead of me, not helped by the ten-ton road drill hammering away inside my head. Why did they call it Everyday Vodka? You can’t drink it every day! I couldn’t drink it again. Next time, I don’t care who I have to rob, I’m spending the extra fiver on Mr Smirnoff.
We don’t eat early in our house. We’re lucky if we get Sunday dinner on the table before six o’clock. Usually, it’s timed to coincide with final whistles, before the punditry. Today, however, mum had planned for about 4pm. It still meant I had to try and ignore all the delightful smells, sounds and sights of their kitchen, as the banquet was prepared. Seeing those spuds roasting slowly in the meat dish, freshly basted in boiling oil, their skins scored for optimum crispiness, tiny globes of blackness evolving on their extremities, is torture when you know you can only have two, at most. The cauliflower cheese bubbling nicely on the top shelf, covered in a coat of salty bacon and crushed crisps, and the popping of the cork on another Campo Viejo, as Dad places the bottle in the middle of the dining table, so it can breathe. It’s all really, really nasty of them. So nasty, it drove me to give the Everyday Vodka a second chance.
As we sat down, bang on 4pm, not really arsed about Villa v West Brom, I was trying to tot up the calorie count on the plate that I was now piling high with pork and all the trimmings. Mum smiled in satisfaction, knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to resist, and said “well you can have one day off, can’t you?”. Not when that one day equals 23 normal days, no. Dad simply glanced at my plate to make sure I wasn’t skimping on my own servings and muttered something that sounded like “get it down yer, girl…”. Always one to obey my parents, that’s exactly what I did. And it was every bit as delicious as I knew it would be. The surprising thing was, though, I felt full after that first plate. Usually, we’d all go for seconds, maybe thirds, then pick at leftovers while we chatted. But I was genuinely full after the first serving. Stomach shrinking? Mental illness? Whatever the reason, I didn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day, not even supper, which would normally be something like cheese & biscuits some time around 8pm. I did have another poor man’s VDC, but that was it. We all sat and watched the Ryder Cup (sorry, but I still can’t bear all the hollering and whooping and the get in the hooole rubbish that seems to characterise big golf tournaments these days. Is nothing sacred?), and I got to bed nice and early, surprised that I seemed to be ‘under’ my daily allowance, even with the amount of oil-covered stuff I’d just eaten.
Monday, I was back home and away from temptation. I opened my fridge and said hi to the yoghurt and strawberries, like they were old mates I’d not seen in years. I put two frozen chicken fillets on the side to defrost, then lined up my compendium of accompanying sauces, deliberating for minutes over which one would be the lucky winner for Monday Night Tea. Sweet chilli & ginger came out tops, again, so I propped him up against the chopping board, then went downstairs to see which clients had mailed over work for me this week. Seeing there was precisely nothing, I shook the laptop just to make sure, then reached under the bed to dust off the folder marked “Proper Stuff”, and got going on some short stories that I really want to get done for the end of the month. I publish on Smashwords, and every time you upload a title, you have to include a book cover, too. You can pay someone to design one for you, or do your own. Sometimes I think I like doing the book covers, more than I like writing the story that goes inside it. That Monday, I spent the entire day putting the cover together, and loved every second. The tales are a collection of ghost stories, based on real Liverpool murders from the 19th century, but with a modern twist. I’ve only written 6 pages of the first one, though, and there are five other volumes to do before any of it can go up. As usual, I’m getting all my priorities completely screwed up.
As reward for my artistic endeavours, I cooked up my delicious tea, then sat in front of the first episode of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s latest HBO offering, which I’d heard good things about. I am not good at watching programmes as they appear. I cannot abide commercials, trailers, and all the usual crap that comes with watching stuff on an actual telly. It’s why I don’t have a telly. Instead, I have a wish list of (usually American) stuff, and every week I go into Starbucks, or somewhere else where I can abuse fast, free wi-fi, and download entire series. The advantages of this are too numerous to mention. Ask anyone who’s ever bought a box set.
The Newsroom is genius. There is no other word for it. It is so genius, that one episode wasn’t enough. I watched 5 back to back, and didn’t get to sleep until around 3am. Tuesday, I spent the day actually writing the aforementioned short story, then re-enacted Monday’s reward routine – chicken stir fry (szechuan tomato was the winning sauce this time), with the remaining 5 episodes of The Newsroom. When it was all finished, I think I actually felt like my life had changed. Aaron Sorkin is probably my favourite scriptwriter. Everything he’s ever done has always hit the bullseye (Studio 60 was not his fault…), including one of the best film scripts ever written (in my humble opinion)…A Few Good Men. Maybe that’s why I’m really on a diet, so I can one day marry Aaron Sorkin.
So, I was all Newsroom-ed up in the first half of the week, and was definitely back on track calories-wise. Only three things ever seem to throw me off kilter. Going out, going to mum’s, and going the match. The first, usually leads to the other two. Thursday, we played Udinese in the UEFA Cup (sorry, but that’s what I’m calling it). I wasn’t even going the game (skint, as per…), but it’s tradition to meet Peewee and the boys for some shandies and the ECHO quiz, sometimes some poker, in Rigby’s at around 5pm. In the morning, I’d met up with Tony @ FACT to go over a project we’re working on, and it seemed silly to go home, only to come back out again. So I went to Starbucks and did some more downloading, grabbed a healthy lunch from Skinny Malinx, a cafe on Castle Street that actually tells you the exact calorie count of everything they sell. When I got to Rigby’s, I was sober, feeling good, and had boundless energy, probably from the excellent, inspiring session I’d had with Tony earlier. Plus, I had Hatfields & McCoys to start watching later on, as part of my nightly download session. It was a good day.
Then I started drinking.
I’d only intended three, maybe four VDCs, especially at Rigby’s prices. We’d do the quiz, have a gab, and the boys would throw me out of the taxi on their way up to the Stanley. Easy. But the vibe was so energising, it was hard not to get carried away with them. But when I’m not going to the game, I’m always at risk from a slight depression, as kick-off approaches. Everyone starts hovering, unable to fully relax, the talk is all about the team and how the match is going to go, and I hate, really hate, that they’re all going and I’m not. But because I live so near the ground, I said the fateful words “oh I’ll come to the Stanley with you, then walk home…”. Fatal. It was never going to happen. Even as I said the words, I knew that. In my head, I was actually chanting to myself “go home now, go home now, go home now…”, but the Stanley was shouting louder.
The Stanley is not my local, but it’s Peewee’s, and I only see him at Euros. When I do go a Euro game, I’ll split around 6pm and head to the King Charles to see the usual crowd. But this time I stayed with Peewee and ended up at the Stanley, still with every intention of going home, where there was a chicken fillet and a yellow bean & sesame sauce waiting to be cooked. But by 7.45pm, my other personality had already decided to go, not home, but to the King Charles instead, where I could watch the game and get cheaper vodka. I was 5 double VDCs in. In theory, I could still have gone home, had tea, and not felt too guilty. Fast forward three hours, and I’m shouting at the telly in the King Charles, VDC No.10 in front of me, and my stomach is feeling like my throat had been cut, but I will not have that bag of cheese & onion that’s been staring at me through the entire first half. Because I have willpower. As the final whistle went, and Brendan walked off with a face like thunder, I am thinking to myself “go now, before the pub fills up, and before you have anything else to drink. You’re pissed. Go. Home. Now.”….just at the moment Tammy the landlady sticks a free double VDC right in front of me.
On cue, the pub fills up in seconds with disgruntled Reds deconstructing the match, second by second, then Will and Christine walk in and, because I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, that gives me another excuse not to actually move anytime soon.
I got home about 11.45pm. I don’t know how. I went to bed without any tea, and felt predictably rubbish all day Friday. I missed an important meet-greet at St George’s Hall, because I was stuck in Speke all day on a fifty quid gig I could have done down the phone, and I had to eat something off-plan for lunch, because nowhere in Speke sells anything that isn’t processed or fluorescent. I was ashamed of myself for my lack of willpower Thursday night even if, technically, I didn’t go over my calorie allowance. But not eating will do that.
This morning, I fully expected to get on the scales and the alarm to go off, at which point Diet Yoda would have sent the boys round to officially remove me from ‘the programme’. There’s just no way I was losing weight this week, surely, and that would be purely down to the vodka.
Things I Re-Learned This Week
1. I drink too much vodka. Drink too much, period.
That’s it really.
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. Oh look, another Saturday and Sunday (probably) drinking vodka…
I kid myself that I’m only drinking VDC because it’s less calories than wine, which is what I’d usually be on. The amount, is the problem here, and it’s something I either can’t, or don’t want to, control. And one of my favourite people is over from Jersey this weekend, and I can’t wait to catch up. We’re going to Lark Lane at some point, then I’m heading back to stay at the Olds. No Sunday dinner, but a fridge full of stuff, all the same. The signs are not good.
2. Another Hair F**k-Up
To herald the start of my diet and general attempt at making my life worth something, I went and got my long hair chopped off. At least, that was the plan. Years ago, I had a pixie crop, which I loved, but which I was just too lazy to maintain. My hair grows faster than a Girl’s World, and I’d have needed a thousand pounds to afford the fortnightly haircuts required to keep it in shape. Since then, I’d grown it, and it was the longest it had ever been, when I decided to go gamine again. But my hairdresser of 6 years didn’t want to go that short. The small matter of it being my money, didn’t seem to faze her. I didn’t realise it was up to her, not me, how my own hair looked. Not just that, but they’d stopped doing free wine. I had therefore decided that it would be my last time there, anyway, but she must have sensed this, as she went and cut it in a style that I hadn’t asked for, and not nearly as short as I’d wanted it. In fact, it was dangerously close to being a ‘bob’. Not good. In the 5 weeks since, I’ve had to wait for it to grow a bit so I can go and have it recut somewhere else. That does actually make sense. Girls know what I mean. So, in about an hour, I’m going to a strange salon, where “Areisha” is going to hopefully do what my ex-hairdresser seemed incapable of – doing what I ask for. I’m a bit wary, but then I normally am around people who don’t have proper names. Could it be disaster No.2? More than likely.
To Business – The stats bit:
Week 1: 3.25lbs
Week 2: 4lbs
Week 3: 0.75lbs
Week 4: 0.75lbs
Week 5: 0.50lbs (amazing, considering…)
Total after 35 days: 9.25lbs