Those who have the misfortune to know me, can ascertain that I am rarely at a loss for words. However, take a situation that matters, then I am struck dumb.
For instance: blokes. Routinely, after meeting a quite-possibly-life-partner on a dance floor, the ensuing first date would bring on hives as I’d sit mutely in front of my G&T. So, the night I met my (future) husband, for our ensuing first date I wrote a script and learnt it. The poor guy couldn’t get a word in edgeways; I was like Bob Hope on Haribo, Tim Vine on Winalot. Happily we got wed, and I found my voice, unfortunately for my husband.
Networking also turns me into shy-bird. Especially BBC seminars for indie companies where bright-eyed attendees, wine glass in hand, ruthlessly target would-be collaborators and commissioners with whom to chat and giggle. Meanwhile, yours truly pretends she’s a pot plant.
I did try to get better at it, viz. I replied to an ad inviting applicants to an Open Day, to pop in for a chat and a mince pie. It was a company that specialised in factual entertainment - not my bag - but where could be the harm? So, I zapped off my details and put it in my diary.
A week before Christmas, girding myself for the fact that I’d be twice the age of the CEO and thrice that of the trendy brigade of tattooed, pierced, funny-hatted, geeky spec’d, skinny-trousered fledgling TV execs, I step through the production company’s uber-cool sliding glass doors to be met by an uber-cool Avatar receptionist who smiles a warm welcome before asking what time my appointment is.
“Did you apply to come in today?” asks the Avatar.
“When did you apply?”
“Um. I can’t remember.”
“Did we reply to you?”
‘Um. No … Look, shall I just…?’
I jerk my thumb backward; the universal sign for ‘scarper.’
“No, no, hold on,” he insists, running a beautiful fingernail across a display of printed name badges. Glancing round, I note carefree young people nonchalantly chatting to one another as they wait on the appointments they’ve been invited to. And every one of them wears a bloody name badge.
“Hmm,” continues the Avatar. “You’re not here.”
Yeah, I think. I wish I wasn’t.
“Let me just check the system…”
I feel it would be rude to run from the building because he’s got his face in his computer screen.
“Hmm. No trace of it,” he persists. “But I’m sure we can find you someone who’ll talk to you…sorry, what’s your name? And what is it you do?”
Fuck up, I think. Regularly.
Having tried to impress with a couple of ancient shows I’d once made, the clearly unimpressed Avatar scrawls my name on a sticker and I perch next to Zara and Dylan who are discussing the problem of dealing with too many job offers, a mysterious concept to me. So I pick up a book on interior design, merchandise from one of the countless series on button-collaging, mega-trucking, or dogging that the company regularly vomits out to the viewing millions.
Eventually, as Zara and Dylan are taken off for cosy tête-à-têtes with the King of Projects and the Emperor of Scripts, and then Tom and Prash have been called up, as have Rolo and Bella, who arrived after me, I am given a tour of the building by the assistant to the assistant deputy of stationery. As I hurry after her, we pass glass offices where Important People are chatting earnestly to Important Open Day Guests. I am then plonked at a table of badge-wearing children who are fawning over the Head of Development.
My improvised badge fools her because she smiles at me.
“Hi, Luis …”
I glance down at my sticker. The Avatar can’t spell.
“…Me and these guys are just kicking a few ideas around …please, do pitch in…”
Fuck. This smacks of a workshop. And I hate workshops.
Naturally, my ebullient cohorts are concept-wallahs, their sweet young mouths spewing out anything to prove they have what it takes to be the next master of wallpaper TV. Also, they’re giving ideas for free – a standard TV trick.
I nod knowingly, trying not to wince as I scald my tongue-tied-tongue on a cup of civet-poo coffee. Even if I had an idea I didn’t want them to nick, I can’t think of one.
Having sat like a used Durex at a nun’s tea table for an eternity, I am eventually summoned by the would-be stationery god, because they’ve found someone to speak to me! Surprisingly, it isn’t the cleaner, but a nice lady; an executive producer, who isn’t actually with the company, but a freelancer who occasionally works for them, who has popped by to pick up her dry cleaning she’d left behind the week before.
They find a room for us that has evidently just been used as a shoot for an Australian BBQ series. So, sat amidst inflatable kangaroos, giant tins of 4X lager and plastic burgers, the nice lady and I have ‘our chat’…
And! She is amazed by my credentials! And so enthralled by my prediction as to what the next successful genre of TV will be, she calls in the CEO and demands that he hires me as their top showrunner pronto.
Yeah. No, that didn’t happen.
In reality, after an agonising period of her feigning interest in me, my c.v., or my sticker, I decide to put both of us out of our misery by exclaiming I am late for a wisdom tooth extraction. Without asking for my contact details, the nice lady promises they’ll be in touch, prompting me to thrust my sad little business card at her - which no doubt was put to good use as a roach - say a final goodbye, fall over a couple of kangaroos, and leave the building.
And I didn’t even get a mince pie.