Thursday, 22 March 2012

Broken Compass


I am currently unemployed.

Bad news for my bank balance, my mental health and my general demeanour. 

Good news for next year’s tax bill and my local off license.

It also seems to be a good thing for my diet. Last night, for the first time in several months I actually took the time to cook myself a proper, nutritional meal. I used my knives for something other than chipping ice cubes out of a tray and I used the oven for something other than an extra shoe cupboard.

Listen, I live on a boat. Storage is at a premium.

So, once I had cooked this flavoursome meal and used all my kitchen utensils (except that one from Joseph Joseph, I’m still not really sure what that one does), I sat down in front of a DVD to try and enjoy a night in. A rare, relaxed, solo Night In.

I poured wine, I munched on my homecooked food and I watched a scintillating DVD. But my mind kept wandering and I felt uneasy. Even Ryan Gosling in a crisp white shirt saying words from a well-written screenplay could not hold my attention. Although maybe that’s because the movie he was in had a slightly complex plot which required concentration and focus. I much preferred it when he was in ‘Drive’ and just murmured mono-syllabically whilst looking brooding and thoughtful and drove super fast, sexy cars with Christina Hendricks shrieking in the back. I found that film much easier to follow. Admittedly the ending was lost on me (is he dead? I don’t get it) but I still left the cinema feeling fulfilled and enlightened by Gosling and his washboard abs.

Anyway, I tried to just relax and enjoy the evening but I found it impossible. My mind and thoughts were racing with questions.  I mean, what would I do tomorrow? And the day after tomorrow? And the day after that? And why do I describe Ryan Gosling as having ‘washboard abs’? Should I ever actually have the opportunity to get up close and personal with Gosling and his belly-button, the last thing I would want to do is get out my hand-wash only delicates and scrub them up and down on his lovely tanned tummy whilst he clutched the Daz.

Anyway, let’s leave that mental image and get back to me. Sat on the sofa, no make-up, hair scraped back into a ponytail and experiencing an overwhelming  sensation of uncertainty.

What I was certain of, is that I was not enjoying unemployment.

I did the last show on Saturday and by Tuesday I knew that I was not handling the situation brilliantly. Instead of feeling gleeful about the fact I was free of my cast and company, I ended up feeling slightly sentimental and mourning the daily contact with these wonderful people.  Although this may also be due to something else.

I know that this is a theatrical blog but I am still a woman and other womanly things can sometimes effect me and how I deal with my work (or lack of work). The miracle of modern science means that I can prevent myself from getting pregnant, but they are yet to invent a pill which prevents me from becoming a slightly irrational, moody, oversensitive pain in the backside.

I know when my period is coming and obviously I know when it has come. Yet, each month my sudden mood swings take me completely by surprise.

This may be why at about five o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon I found myself in a subterranean wine bar drinking Beaujolais from a carafe.

With one of my cast. From the show which had ended on Saturday.

He had called me in the morning with a simple question and instead of just answering it I had yelped ‘Shall we meet for lunch?’ in a slightly desperate fashion.

Lunch had been a cheap two-course lunchtime deal in the ‘West End Kitchen’ (don’t have the mackerel) and had turned into booze at the Cork and Bottle wine bar (have absolutely anything) in town. Actor Friend, the lovely Mr B, commented on my short temper and negative, slightly malicious attitude. I nodded and admitted he was right but that there was good reason for it.

‘It’s just my time... it’s a woman thing.’

Mr B rolled his eyes before taking a sip of something crisp,white and fruity. ‘You bloody women. It happens at the same time every month yet you don’t ever actually think to yourself ‘Oh, it’s that time of the month. I’m feeling weird because it’s that time of the month. Maybe there is something I can do to prevent this odd, slightly psychotic behaviour.’’

I was tempted to smash the half full carafe over his head but he has a point. Plus he had taken me to a fabulous drinking spot. I let the subject go and mentioned the other reason I am functioning slightly differently.

‘I hate being unemployed.’ I sighed despondently.

Mr B is in the same situation and we spend the next two hours bemoaning our lack of employment.

Which is why by eight o’clock I am back home on the boat feeling drunk, emotional and hormonal. And why I wake up at eight the following morning feeling hungover, emotional and hormonal.

Without the show or knowing what my next project is, I can’t help but feel slightly lost.

Like my own personal compass is broken.

Believe me, I know that I am not the only theatrical who feels like this and that there are many other people who have to deal with their post-show blues and ‘whats my next job’ anxiety. I am aware that I am not special or unique in feeling this way.

I decided that I should enjoy the free time I have which is what led to the certain domestic, cooking spell. But after the joy of preparing the ingredients and the pleasure of actually eating the meal had worn off, I still felt odd. And knocking back a couple of Feminax was not going to solve it either.

I decided that the way to deal with the situation was to try and think of things that I enjoy doing but never get the chance to do because I have work. I rule out any more daytime drinking as that is neither going to get me a job or improve my state of mind.

The following day, Wednesday, I do productive things like job searching, laundry, sorting out receipts and hand-washing. As I scrubbed at my ‘good’ pants, I remembered a poster I had seen on the tube showing a man doing a headstand in the snow.

I have passed the poster of Scott doing a headstand in the snow a million times on the tube. It is advertising the exhibition at the Natural History Museum about Scott of the Antarctic.  Every time I have seen it I have been slightly harassed and on my way to work at 5.00pm, weaving my way through Evening Standards, Financial Times and Kindles, resenting the suits clutching Waitrose bags of goodies for dinner. Or I have seen the poster on my way home, a couple of glasses of Merlot heavier and slightly dirty from the floury and painty post show clean up, praying that I reached Westminster in time for the last Jubilee line tube home. And each time I saw the poster I thought,

‘I really should go and see that.’

And now I can. Without worrying about what time I have to leave or thinking ‘God, I wish I didn’t have to go to work now.’

So that is what I did today. I headed to the Natural History Museum with my friend Rose. I wanted to go to the exhibition because I wanted to find out what makes a group of men feel the need to travel to a part of the world which at that point nobody else had visited. I was curious to find out why intelligent men would put themselves through such unbelievably tough conditions and test themselves physically and mentally, simply to get to a point on earth that nobody else had ever visited, a point on earth which is described as being ‘a dangerous environment, where misjudgement and inexperience are fatal.’ I was intrigued by why we celebrate these men so much despite the fact they actually failed their mission and lost the race.

Rose wants to go because she has heard there are stuffed penguins.

The exhibition is compelling and thought-provoking. I know that these men failed and died in their mission, but what the artefacts, the diaries and the images show is a group of men who were undeterred by the problems they faced and who kept heading South with determination and tenacity.

These were men whose compasses were not broken.

I don’t think I could ever do something like head to the South Pole. For a start people do it all the time now, just for holidays and stuff. Also I don’t have the right shoes and I think the Wi-Fi signal would be crap. But maybe I should be using my spare time in between jobs actually achieving something or creating something. Just, you know, fix my compass a little.

Even if it is just doing some decent and complicated cooking for once.

Anyone know any recipes which include Feminax?


  1. I don't know how you do it but you often write exactly what I am thinking.

    I too hate being unemployed. I. Hate. It. And deal with it very badly (though I now have a decorated house, a clean car interior and immaculate accounts).

    I hope you get a job soon. But to start in like 5 weeks or so, so you can enjoy all the time off first knowing you won't be destitute at the end.

  2. Hi J
    I don't know what it does to your metaphor, but in reality the closer you get to the pole, the more a magnetic compass goes totally haywire and starts spinning around. Food for thought... (or maybe an argument in favour of GPS)