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REVIEW:          'Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink'           by Elvis Costello

Rather than the unwieldy ‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’, I’d take bets that Elvis Costello’s publishers would have preferred his (kitten-clobbering, 675 page) memoir to be a more browser-friendly ‘Everyday I Write The Book’ (from the LP ‘Punch The Clock’, 1983). Unleashed from the discipline of constructing perfectly-formed lyrical couplets (Nice girls, not one with a defect/Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct…’ from ‘Watching the Detectives’—what else?), Costello lays out his stall from the get-go—and, surprisingly, the result is more Prog-Rock than Punk-Pop. While even the most brilliant lyricist is entitled to flounder when confronted by the demands of long-form prose, despite being one of the great musical collaborators Costello clearly felt equipped to go it alone. 

There are three very different books here; the straightforwardly commercial and (given that Class-As and A-listers are what we expect from a rock star biog) invariably successful and-then-I-looked-up-and-realised I was playing alongside-my-hero-Paul McCartney/Burt Bacharach/Bob Dylan/Joni Mitchell/Many More Besides. Less successfully, however, there’s a great deal of ‘My Grandpa Played Trumpet on the White Star Liners’—a delving-deep-into-my-genes genre that will be strictly for McManus family obsessives. And finally, somewhere between these two extremes of readability, is a book about music and musicianship, song-writing and indeed singing. Often this is very engaging (and even funny) yet, just as often, it is unfathomably and alienatingly ‘muso’ for we mere simple-minded fans. >>>>>

 

And I write as a lifelong fan, a girl who hit her teens in 1977 (not to mention the daughter of a songwriter whose lyrics were sung by that other Elvis), spiked her hair and sneered, yet was also unapologetically in thrall to verses and choruses you could actually sing. Costello was in the ‘New Wave’ minority: by the time he was first seen on Top of The Pops, Declan MacManus-turned–Elvis Costello wasn’t exactly a post-punk angry teen but a twentysomething married father-of-one—the only child of Ross MacManus, the vocalist with the Joe Loss Orchestra, who was nonetheless (absurdly) best known as the singer of the R.Whites’ lemonade ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’. Music was deep in his DNA.

I still have my 7” single of ‘Pump It Up’ bought from Woolworth’s in South Harrow and my pristine vinyl copies of ‘This Year’s Model’, ‘Armed Forces’, ‘Punch The Clock’, ‘Blood and Chocolate’, and many more. Seeing Costello and The Attractions’ 1986 ‘Spinning Songbook’ gig at London’s Royalty Theatre remains one of my peak live-music lifetime experiences; the man’s extraordinary ‘I Want You’ (1986, from ‘Blood and Chocolate’) is very much in my personal Top Ten Greatest Vocals Performances, Ever (just don’t ask me to list the other nine), while Costello’s 1998 collaborative masterpiece with Burt Bacharach, ‘Painted From Memory’, remains in strong contention as my Desert Island CD. 

So, I think I pass the fan-girl-test, however until ‘Painted from Memory’ hauled me back to the Costello back-catalogue, my own catholic tastes had veered elsewhere in the 1990s and there were still huge gaps in my Costello knowledge… which, here, Costello plugs and plugs ad infinitum. >>>>> 

 

This article was commissioned — and Spike*d — by A National Newspaper, October 2015

[*PS Did you see what I did there?]

 

Yet, though given equal weight, I doubt there are fans for whom the Brodsky Quartet or Allen Toussaint collaborations resonate quite as strongly as, say, those with McCartney or Bacharach, or Johnny Cash or Chet Baker. (Indeed, the story of how Costello acquired Baker’s astoundingly poignant trumpet solo on the extraordinary ‘Shipbuilding’ is, alone, probably worth the price of admission). With a career as long and diverse and entirely unpredictable as Costello’s there is probably something in his back-catalogue for nearly everybody—but everything for everybody? Hardly.

Therefore the book in its entirety is mostly one for the fan-boys. Or indeed fan-girls whose musical-trainspottery includes alphabeticising their collections. Infused with inevitable brilliance (that Costello can construct a clever sentence comes as no surprise) ultimately ‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’ is a more-is-less object lesson in the necessity for an editor brave enough to curb Costello’s numerous enthusiasms. On the subject of writing the anti-Thatcher foot-stomper ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’, Costello observes that his friend ‘Alan [Bleasdale] was the only person I ever sought an opinion from about a first or even final draft of a lyric. The art of songwriting and record making is not a democracy in which everyone gets to vote, but I trusted Alan’s counsel on such matters then as I do now.’ But, sadly, perhaps not when it comes to prose?

Given all these words, Declan MacManus the man—happy hiding behind an alias (or two, or more)—remains frustratingly opaque; I don’t feel I know him any better than I did when I shook his hand and muttered something inane and fan-girl-ish when briefly introduced at the Ivor Novello Awards in the mid-1990s. Yet, if nothing else, ‘Unfaithful Music’ succeeded in sending me back to Costello’s extraordinary music—to which it remains an exhaustive (and exhausting) footnote. [ENDS]

 

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22.03.2015
Kathryn Flett
1 Comments
Woohoo—break out the bargain Prosecco: It is ten years since I left London with my two year old son and his father for a new life by the sea in East Sussex. Since then, a great deal has changed — not least the fact that the four bedroom garden flat in a fashionable bit of west London that we sold for £595,000 in 2005 is now ‘worth’ about £1.5million. But all’s well that ends well, eh? Well, ish. When we split up, in 2007, after the birth of our second son, the father of my children stayed in our Victorian seaside villa while I moved less than half a mile up the hill. Nonetheless, despite having spent an entire decade in this town and despite the fact that my nearly nine year-old is a local boy born-and-bred, I do not anticipate feeling at home here any time soon; like, say, in this lifetime. For a start other than my children and a couple of friends, almost all of the people and things that matter most to me are elsewhere. And of those people and things the majority are still in London. And while I spent forty years of my life in London each time I visit (the gaps used to be counted in days, now it can be months) I recognise 'my' city a little less. Sometimes I literally don’t recognise it at all — as when old buildings are replaced by big new shiny Crossrail-y ones while I was looking the other way for just a year or two — at other times I just don’t recognise London's vibe. A confession: I no longer feel comfortable in the capital and each time I visit I feel more like a poor, old (wrong shoes, too fat…) provincial day-tripper than I ever imagined it could be possible for me to feel. And yet I’ve decided (all together now…) Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner/That I hate London so… During February half-term, while my 12 year-old was on a school trip, I took my nearly nine-year-old up to see his grandpa in Notting Hill. We had carbonara at Valentina and then wandered through the mid-afternoon sun to the (predictably heaving) Princess Diana playground, in Kensington Gardens. As a toddler in Maida Vale my eldest son had been a regular, however this was No2 son’s debut (he loved it). Afterwards, on a tight half-term budget (that is a Catch 22 of a single, freelance not-earning-this-week-but-have-no-childcare budget), I decided that if we wanted to see Big Hero Six at the IMAX in Leicester Square (and we really really did) then we would have to cut a few corners. Literally. So we strode hand-in-hand from Notting Hill to Leicester Square, diagonally across the Park with the sun setting behind us. As we walked and talked (he’s such great company) I recalled that the last time I’d navigated the whole of Hyde Park in one go had been when I’d, ahem, ‘Run the World’ for Live Aid. Was it really possible that thirty years had passed since I’d crossed my hometown park on foot? Apparently it was. ‘It’s only because you’re really old, Mummy!’ No2 son told me kindly, consolingly, squeezing my hand. ‘Yes, you’re absolutely right!’ I squeezed back. By the time we got to the cinema, I had blisters — though fortunately not on my hand. That day I managed to avoid feeling too much like a tourist simply because we saw so many people who actually were, wobbling through the park on their Boris bikes, stopping for selfies and speaking every language under the setting sun that wasn’t English. And then just last week I was up in town again—celebrating another tenth anniversary (funnily enough my friend Jane Bruton’s brilliantly shiny ten year editorship of Grazia has coincided almost exactly with the least glossy decade of my life) and, before that, meeting my dad to view a flat he is in the process of buying. This flat is a stone’s throw from the bachelorette ‘penthouse’ flat I rented twenty years ago in Chepstow Crescent. A glance at Mouseprice tells me that that modest little flat (really: it was light & airy and the size of a commensurately light & airy shoebox) is now worth £850-900K and would rent at around £500-575 a week. I don't currently earn much more than £500 a week, so if further proof were needed that a) I’m living my life in reverse, like some sort of sad Benjamina Button (partly true), or that, b) bits of London I naively thought were ‘mine’ now belong only to very rich people, then c) I think this moment was it. And in case you think I was previously a Child of Enormous Privilege, I am not being disingeneous about that Chepstow Crescent flat. After getting married, I moved out in early 1996 simply because there wasn’t room for my then husband’s collection of terrible albums by ‘Yes', much less his cargo pants and Birkenstocks (it was the mid-1990s — though that doesn’t excuse the ‘Yes’ LPs, obviously). In fact there wasn’t really any room in the flat for my husband — which is exactly what I should have concluded at the time, however hindsight is a wonderful thing. And I digress. This, however, was the context in which I went to view the flat my father is looking to buy, chiefly in order to allay his fears about its diminutive proportions. And it is diminutive — however if you want to live in this delightful spot in London W11/W2 borders and have less than three quarters of a million to spend, diminutive is now the default. On the upside, the flat has been cleverly done, is quiet and light and bright and airy. ‘It’s very nice,’ I told my dad, honestly, ‘really, you’d be mad not to buy it.’ What I didn’t want to say was that if he doesn’t buy it I think he will never be able to buy anything else in the area of London that he loves. While he’s hardly down-and-out-in-Notting Hill he doesn’t run a hedge fund and he’s eighty this year, so… fingers crossed. I, on the other hand, can clearly never afford to live in any bit of London I’d want to live in ever again. Except that I’m not even sure the bits of London I’d always assumed I’d want to live in would be places in which I’d now feel remotely At Home. Last week, as I walked down Pembridge Road and Pembridge Villas it was the end of the school day and I could barely navigate the pavement for Filipina nannies/housekeepers doing the pick-up from Wetherby (pre-Prep, boys only, £6,170 a term, alumni include Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Hugh Grant, Princes William and Harry). Back in the day, even Princess Diana would do the pick-up. Back in the day, too, this bit of west London was full of different kinds/colours/classes of people living cheek-by-jowl, not Another Country. And I don’t mean that in a ghastly UKIP-y kind of way, obviously—I just mean that I now feel as much a stranger among the rich as I do among the staff of the rich; their shared ‘hood is not my old ‘hood. In short, I may know my way around these west London streets as well as any cabbie but, just like a cabbie, there’s no longer much point in lingering. When I lived in Chepstow Crescent it was still on the cusp of Cashed-Up v The Creatives. There were already plenty of cashed-up creatives and while the bankers may have been moving in they were the kind of bankers you didn’t mind bumping into in The Walmer Castle or Tom’s. You could pop out to a newsagents or to collect a takeaway curry in your flip-flops and trackies and not be made to feel like something on the bottom of a Hedgie's shoe. On the subject of which, last week I also noted (for the record) that (apparently) it’s only out-of-town middle-aged Mums-on-the-Run and nannies who wear Uggs in public, in daylight, in March, on the streets of Notting Hill. You’re welcome...
09.03.2015
Kathryn Flett
No comments
Mar 6, 2015 Love this Whales-Explain-The-Mystery-of-the-Menopause story in today’s The Times (£££): http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4373589.ece In short, for those without a News UK subscription, human females, killer whales and pilot whales are the only mammals to carry on living past their *child*-bearing years... Older female whales lead pods of younger whales ‘through the salmon foraging grounds’ thus the ‘presence of these matriarchs ensures their children and grandchildren will live longer’ Researchers, putting two-and-two-together and coming up with something genius, claim that ‘elderly killer whales act as ‘repositories of ecological knowledge’, guiding their families to the best hunting grounds and improving their chances of passing on their genes. The menopausal whales were also found to give more help to their sons than their daughters, possibly because the young male killer whales spread their genetic legacy wider.’ Extrapolating from this ‘whale wisdom’… Darren Croft (#FiftySense new crush, see pic below), Professor of Psychology at the University of Exeter, said the menopause could have evolved for similar reasons,‘traceable back to the days when hunter-gatherers depended on the experience and generosity of wise women’. This explains why we Menopausal females feel like (and I quote myself; see previous Blog post) ‘The CEO of The World’. It’s because we are. Special thanks to Stephanie (#FiftySense) Symonds for messaging me about this story at 8.53am. 
09.03.2015
Kathryn Flett
7 Comments
Mar 3, 2015 FINALLY, it looks as though (maybe, if we do it in suitably hushed and self-deprecatory tones while sparing the menfolk and the kinder the gory details) we might be able to start not only acknowledging the existence of the Menopause but actually admitting that its impact on our life may not be, well, 100 per cent positive… Having fought the Fembot-battle for 100 hundred years, declaring we’re fit for any purpose, I sense that we’re REALLY going to have to gird our loins for this one...  because it involves admitting that a lot of us — temporarily and for all sorts of reasons — may not be. Scary. But first, some background reading. Origin of the word menopause? Here you go: http://www.menopausesupplement.com/blog/Origin-of-the-Word-Menopause And I found this piece (about the menopause lasting up to 12 years) quite interesting: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/18/menopause-symptoms-12-years And then last week it was the unmissable story that ‘Women *battling* [see my note about the use of military metaphors at the end of this post] Menopause are ‘being forced out of jobs’. I first saw the piece in the Sunday Times, however that News UK paywall stops me linking, so: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2974904/Women-battling-menopause-forced-jobs-Campaigner-says-companies-ignoring-impact-employees.html (Good luck with the legislation for that!). And then of course there was Jimmy Carr: http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/jimmy-carr-slammed-ageist-after-5236578 All of which has made rush into *print* with a quick MenoBlog. It’s a subject I’ll be returning to regularly, however here are a few salient details, bashed out in the spare hour I have before the school run. At nearly 51 I’m now menopausal. However, several months after giving birth (traumatic) to my youngest son, aged 42 (you try giving birth to a 42 year old man… *cymbal crash*) and after my periods had returned and I’d stopped breast-feeding, I noticed a shift in my levels of PMT — from the usual week-grumpy/sad for a week before-my-period to, well, muchlonger. However as there was so much else going in my life I just cracked on. My then-partner believed I was suffering from PND; I wasn’t — far from wanting the world to go away while I hid beneath the proverbial duvet, I was a) in love with my new baby, and, b) absolutely driven to do stuff… so I did. A couple of years later I was in a new relationship and it was this man who identified the cyclical nature of my mood-swings and energy levels. To cut the subsequent (year-long) story short, I eventually found myself at the Wimpole Street offices of HRT Guru, Professor John Studd (www.studd.co.uk) where I was, finally, properly diagnosed — and prescribed HRT. Even if the Pros outweigh the Cons (they do for me but won't for everyone), HRT is far from a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, I have a progesterone intolerance, which makes things more complex. However, though my budget no longer runs to visiting Prof. Studd’s practice I’m back on HRT after a six month window-of-wonkiness (hello the vile sweats and the ‘Here’s Johnny’ mood-swings and not remembering my best friends' names… and goodbye again). In short, I’m feeling great. However if you are Of An Age and feeling a bit — how shall we put it? —messy… and maybe you’ve gone to the Doc and they’ve patted you gently on the head and slipped you the Happy Pills, then I strongly urge you to read Professor Studd on the subject of women being prescribed anti-depressantsfor what are in fact hormonal imbalances. ‘Rife’ isn’t the word. Which brings me neatly back to my own personal menopausal ‘journey’. Floundering around in the dark while knowing nothing about menopause at all doesn’t come close. For example, I haven’t had access to my mother in any sort of meaningful way for the past 35 years so I learned nothing about it from her, while anything I have learned was passed on, Wise-Women-round-the-Watering-Hole style, from friends or gathered from the Webs or gleaned from (overly-earnest and very American) self-help books. Still, I have a handle on it now, I like to think, so here are a few swift observations: • Just because your body allows you to become an Elderly Gravida doesn’t mean it relishes the process. I instinctively know that the pregnancy and birth of my beloved youngest son catapulted my body into peri-menopause. • The menopause and its environs are not a nurturing space. They are however an I am Woman, Hear Me Roar space. This can create a pretty tricky dynamic if your body is still nurturing young children or coping with caring for elderly parents while your head is saying Climb Everest Now/ Enter Bake-Off/ Become a UNICEF Ambassador/Stand for Parliament/Direct an Award-Winning Documentary/Enter The Red Room of Pain… With Another Woman(For the record, my head has never said any of these things). * Red wine and the Menopause does not a happy cocktail make. Just saying. • Unless they are medically qualified don’t bother discussing this stuff at length with Male People—it really scares the shit out of them. Yes, even the nice ones are baffled by your alarming new 'behaviours', especially if they think they know you very well. • And yet of course unless we start ‘fessing up — to men, other women, the kids, our poor aged parents; everybody — about the quite extraordinarygeneral head/body-fuckery that can (and I stress ‘can’ because it isn’t a given) come with Menopause, then we’re never going to get anywhere.  • Finally, for the record: it  isn’t always *fun* but I can honestly say that Menopause has made me far cleverer and wiser and my synapses are currently firing like something very expensive at CERN. I am indeed *hot* — just not that kind of *hot*. (NB I do not suffer fools either a) gladly or b) at all. I never did, tbh, but now? Pffft!). * Which is probably why it’s so fucking annoying to be 'invisible', to be (possibly) consigned somewhat prematurely (in my opinion) to the career scrapheap, to be (maybe) considered an also-ran when, inside, I feel likethe CEO of The Fucking World*.  Let me know your thoughts. (*on a good day!) [PS re *battling menopause*. If you haven't already, do read Susan Sontag's 1977 essay 'Illness and Its Metaphors' — later re-worked as the seminal 'Aids and Its Metaphors'. These words properly changed my lifewhen I first read them while bedridden with a chronic illness in the early 1990s]
09.03.2015
Kathryn Flett
No comments
Feb 24, 2015 Since her divorce seven years ago Tracey Wright, 51, a mother-of-two, has been supported by her wealthy ex-husband to the tune of 75K a year, including school fees (one child boards, the other is at home) and lives in a substantial mortgage-free house. Conscious that he may not be able to sustain the payments post-retirement, Mr Wright — a racehorse surgeon — went to court to seek a reduction. Tracey Wright then appealed against the decision made by the (female) judge Lynn Roberts, who couldn’t find a good reason why Mrs Wright wasn’t working to support herself. According to Mrs Wright’s (male) lawyer, the appeal was made on the grounds that ‘the order would cause a plummeting in the standard of living’ of the Wright’s youngest child, aged ten. However, in predictable calls-a-spade-a-whatever judicial style, the (male) appeal court judge, Justice Pitchford (‘Pitchfork’, obvs) rejected this argument, suggesting that Tracey Wright ‘just get on with it’. He advised her ‘to get a job... like vast numbers of other women with children.’ Entirely failing to mince his words, he added ‘it is possible to find work that fits in with childcare responsibilities. I reject her other reasons relating to responsibilities for animals, or trees, or housekeeping. Mrs Wright has made no effort whatsoever to seek work or to update her skills... I am satisfied that she has worked on the basis... that she would be supported for life. It is essential... that she starts to work now.’ Cue pictures of Tracey looking put-upon, accompanied by her dogs, on the deck outside her house. Apparently this court case will turn out to be a ‘game-changer’, not least for those divorced women — so-called (by some divorced men, probably) ‘alimony leeches’ — whose antediluvian sense of entitlement leads them to believe that (aside from the extra space in the Superking bed and all that blessed peace and quiet) their post-divorce lives should mirror their married lives. I am entirely in accord with Mr Wright and Justice Pitchfork: as a former riding instructor (previously she was also a legal secretary) Mrs Wright even has the kind of marketable skills that (analogue horse-riding being thrillingly unaffected by the digital world) need absolutely no updating whatsoever! ‘This is terrible. It gives horsey people living mortgage-free in houses worth half a million pounds and receiving three grand a month pocket money for doing nothing a very bad name’ said one witty reader comment on a newspaper’s website. And while I’m sure that the Moderator had to keep an eye on things (I can well imagine the outpourings of Trollsy-bile towards Tracey Wright from the kind of angry ex-husbands whose anger probably contributed to their ex-ness and whose own family court judgements may not have gone their way) for the most part the comments were quite overwhelmingly sane. Here’s a typically respectful exchange: ‘JAMES’: We expect the children of the filthy rich to go out and get a job, and not sit back living off daddy’s inheritance. So it should be with ex-wives. There is nothing degrading about earning an income and setting an example to your children that self respect comes from achievement, not beggaring your ex in the divorce court. ‘JANE’: I’m hoping you mean ‘ex-spouses’, not ‘ex-wives’. ‘JAMES’: Absolutely, it cuts both ways… by all means we should support our families, and give a leg up to ex spouses to help them get back on their feet after what are inevitably distressing break ups, but in the long term, to regain a sense of worth, if not reality, we should all, as adults, at least make the effort to lead independent, productive lives, otherwise what message do we give to our own children?’ It is (frustratingly) all-but-impossible to argue against points of view so suffused with reasonableness and common sense. And here’s another (slightly more pro-Tracey): 'The ‘bargain’ made here was for this man to have the status and comfort of a stay-at-home wife, and she has now got no history of employment which will, as many here point out, mean she is disadvantaged now. I believe we should all work for a living. I also believe in gender equality. Wealthy women do themselves no favours at all when they accept this archaic, crippling ‘bargain’ of staying at home and earning no money. As this case clearly shows they make themselves dependent on the patronage of a man and the survival of a marriage. Yet she DID work during the marriage — if we believe in the worth of the mothering this woman did, and continues to do — and that work (including bearing and caring for this man's children) will bear fruit all his life, and he should give her a good proportion of his pension to guarantee a modest middle-class life-style. I hope the judge left her with enough to ensure this.' Hopelessly fair. But the bottom line is surely this, from a different post: 'We simply cannot expect to be kept for life if we happen to marry into money. Marriage is not a business contract. So, it might be hard to make an income when you’re older — many, many of us know this, whatever our circumstances — but that doesn’t mean anyone should be forced to keep us, whatever past relationship we may have had with them…'. This comment is the product of precisely the kind of hard-earned ‘Fifty Sense’ that the remaining Tracey Wrights of the world would do well to acquire — and fast.
09.03.2015
Kathryn Flett
No comments
Jan 18, 2015 So… despite a few years spent as a Grumpy Old Woman it turns out I was not that well-prepared after all; plenty of people had arrived at Fifty before me and sussed out the lie of the landscape. And guess what? We’re perceived to be over-the-hill at fifty. Apparently it’s the norm for working women of around my age (and as my friend India Knight’s most recent book has it, very much In Your Prime) to leave DOBs off job applications and re-imagine ageing O'Levels as a sprightly set of GCSEs. Indeed, just a few weeks ago there was an article on this subject in the Sunday Times (January 18th). There’s no gender bias in the article (it was written by a man; men over fifty have a tough time too, bless them), yet I only have to look around my industry to see countless fiftysomething men busily and contentedly in-their-primes, very much on a Headhunter’s hit-list and *pulling down the Ks* commensurate with their age and experience.  So the article focused on 50-year-old Sally Nailard, formerly a high-flyer at Unite until she took voluntary redundancy last August. Since then she’s sent fifty job applications to companies as diverse as M&S, Legoland and Nationwide, and received no replies. Sally — youthful and stylish-looking, for what it’s worth — said she was ‘bewildered’ as to why she was being ‘written off.’ Until relatively recently I would have been just as bewildered as Sally, however last year, having just turned fifty, I pitched an idea to a magazine editor about… applying for fifty jobs. ‘No thanks Kate—’ said the editor (female, fiftysomething, flying deservedly high) ‘—that’s not for us’. Fair enough, maybe it was a rubbish idea... but hey, I did it anyway. (I'll write about it in the future). This year — 2015 — I am *celebrating* thirty years in journalism — a business which, happily, doesn't always judge on appearances and can usually recognise the equation: Age + Experience = Better Copy. Unfortunately it's also a very beleagured business. Having had their words (and pictures) — aka 'content' — given away for nothing via newspaper websites, skilled 'content-providers' are increasingly priced out of the post-print-era equation, especially when/if they find themselves freelance. For female journalists of my age who do not have a contract, do not live in London, may be single-income-with-mortgage and still have young children (for example, I’m old enough to be a grandmother however my youngest son is eight and my father is nudging eighty: Sandwich Generation), the solution is to do what you know and love in a different kind of way. Since taking voluntary redundancy from The Observer in 2010, I’ve set up a seaside holiday let, written two novels, been appointed a Visiting Fellow (unpaid) at my local University and become a Trustee (unpaid) of a local charity that will have a very real impact on my local community (www.hpcharity.co.uk). All of this sounds great — and indeed it has been intensely creative. However much of the pleasure of that creativity is cancelled-out by the not inconsiderable stress of worrying about an income which has dropped by... well, let's just say an enormous amount and, very Britishly, leave it at that. Anyway, the point is that if I were a plumber or a brain surgeon of thirty years' standing it is inconceivable that I would be asked to do my job for no, or negligible, pay. However, I'm always being asked to blog somewhere or other for nowt. Sometimes I'm tempted (if I like the people, or it's an interesting subject, for example) but I've yet to cave in. In a climate in which the work of a skilled creative ‘content provider’ is eroded by a marketplace stuffed full of part-time mummy-bloggers, ‘celebrity’ columnists, shouty tweeters and cheap-as-chips interns who can work on multiple platforms (because they're snap-happy i-Phoney Vlog-tographers, too), then those of us who learned our trade on just the one 'platform' — via typewriter and dead trees — can either put up our feet (I was a TV critic for a decade; this comes fairly easily) and shut-up shop, sighing ‘I’m getting old, me — I thought Google Glass was cool'. Or we can entirely reconfigure the parameters of our working lives. I’m trying to do the latter (and I always knew Google Glass was utter crap) while watching my credit-rating hit the floor. I'm wondering where it will all end and knowing that, until I get carted off in a box, it probably won't. But I'm buggered if I'm still going to Keep Up Appearances for the sake of it. So here's the thing: I don't shop in Lidl as some sort of hipster statement — I shop there because it's cheap. This isn't shameful. There are a LOT of 'squeezed middles' out here who have taken the redundancy, like Sally, and cashed in our pensions and who know that there is no 'security' anymore. Luckily, I'm neither proud nor entitled and I have had a wonderful career, even if it does seem to be mostly in the past tense. On top of that, I'm (rather famously) not afraid of honesty — whether or not it's the 'best' policy). Plus I have an impressive work ethic, even if I do say so myself. So the bottom line is that those of us with CVs as long as our arms and bucketloads of 'Fifty Sense' hope that, with a bit of luck, there's a way to redefine the meaning of 'security'. In the meantime, I got very bored with still having lots of things to say and nowhere to say them, so I took a look (I needed a confidence boost, frankly) at my fuck-off, all singing, all-dancing CV... and I sat down and made this site. 'Build it and they will come...'? We'll see...

Out of the Box — Me on TV

We Have Unfinished Business, Madonna...

Mar 16, 2015
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'The Billion Pound Hotel', C4

Mar 10, 2015
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