Is it a British thing?

Have you ever had one of those days where you seem to be solving everyone else’s problems and wish you could be so clever when it came to your own?

So far I’ve helped a friend of mine get some high-profile guests to her film screening and got a gig for my brother’s company for later in the year. He’s a circus performer with a children’s entertainment company, by the way. (Let’s see if I can add to today’s successes!)

The phone lines have been busy. I felt like a networking genius and all before 9.30am! Ho, ho, I may be off the pitch, but not out of the game!!

And then I remembered all the things I’m supposed to be doing for my own project. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing them, but at what feels like snails pace. Ever wish you just had a few more skills – I’m lacking all the technical ones.

When I first started this project, I decided the only way to get going was to take the project seriously, but not myself. If I get too carried away with what everyone thinks, I’ll be paralysed into inaction.

Do any of you feel the same? It’s easy to sell someone else’s ‘product’ and come up with lots of ideas, than it is your own. Perhaps it’s a British thing. We’re not very good at putting ourselves forward – a huge barrier for many a brilliant, creative mind. We worry about what others will think. This is a nation that champions the underdog not the winner. What will people think of us if we put ourselves out there, on a limb?

What do you think? Do you agree?

Posted in Being a mum, Just one of those things | Leave a comment

Who da’ Mummy!

Well, glorious weather aside, we’ve had a rather miserable few days at filmmaking HQ. The cause? A sickly toddler. Poor little thing!

When she was first born, I took heed of all the advice that said clear your calendar of commitments for a few months. As someone always on the go, it was really refreshing to be able to do that. It took the pressure off at a time when you should be allowed to be ‘selfish’ about what you do and don’t do.

But then, time presses on and you forget these lovely lessons you’ve learnt and benefitted from. Recently, I’ve been busy reading for new film ideas, finding my feet in the world of blogging and twitter, writing, fundraising for The Swimmer, and helping with the post-production of our last short (the one we needed a composer for) and of course being a full-time mummy. So, it was terribly inconvenient (!) to wake up on Saturday morning to find a poorly little toddler on my hands. We had so many plans to get out and enjoy the sunshine, but none of it was to be.

I’m the sort of mummy that loves a routine (no, I never managed Gina Ford) and has a full week of activities and play dates arranged around nap and mealtimes. In a battle against the lure of CBeebies, we spend most of the day somewhere else. We carry pots of fruit and other terribly healthy snacks around, and have fairly nutritious balanced meals. And it all works perfectly well – I don’t need change, thank you!

But then someone gets ill and it’s all out of the window, including that lovely nugget of time you had over the lunchtime nap to get some work done. You’re housebound but can’t do anything in it. At first you panic, because clearly the skies going to fall down if you change your plans and routine for a few days, but then it doesn’t. Admittedly the housework piles up and food supplies dwindle day by day, but that’s nothing a little creativity can’t manage.

Next, you realise you’ve gone a day without turning on your laptop, so you quickly open up and manage a quick tweet, because surely the world will be wondering where you’ve gone. A speedy scan of the emails is too much to resist and you have mixed feelings about the number. Great, I’m not forgotten! No, I’ve got too much to do! You write a list. It’s half a page – almost, with embellishments. Almost half a page?! Is that it? But I’m ‘busy and important’.

And that’s the moment you step back and relax. As the little one, slowly lifts her head from illness/heat induced drowsiness to look at you with forlorn eyes, barely able to manage those important requests that she feels she needs for recovery: “Beebies”, “Chocolate”, “Snack” you give up on being ‘busy and important’ for a little while longer.

The laptop is shutdown, CBeebies goes on for what will probably be a long session and you both settle down with a couple of squares of chocolate. Just mummy and the little one.

It’s great to be busy, after all we invest so much of who we are in what we do, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s good to be a little selfish and shut yourself off from the world to be with a little girl that just needs her mummy.

…and beebies, and chocolate, of course.

Posted in Being a mum, Filmmaking | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Yummy Mummy in Nappy Valley

Well, taking a break from the ‘search for a place to swim’ exercise, I thought I’d tell you all about my lovely morning out, yesterday. In fact the whole day and evening were incredibly nice and sociable which is why I’m only just writing about it now.

Living in Nappy Valley (non-local readers – that’s the nickname for Wandsworth), I often use our very own cyber centre for all things parenting related at nappyvalleynet.com.

The lovely Annabel over at NV HQ takes good care of us and often organises mummy meet-ups. Now, I’ve never been to one of these before, but I decided to be brave! And I’m so glad I did.

We met at the family-friendly Scoffers. Another first for me, but after sampling their cakes and hospitality, I’ll be booking a babysitter to go back with OH and sample the evening menu soon.

One thing that I love to be reminded of at these things is how entrepreneurial and clever us mummies are. I met many mums going back to or already working and juggling it all, but also there are lots of mums starting out with their own businesses. The NV website was the brainchild of busy mum, ‘Annabel’, but also I met Sophie, who’s starting a mobile hairdressing business (think child-friendly, designer and chic).

For me the main challenge with starting out on your own, is that it’s not enough just to be an expert in your field, you’re suddenly faced with the problems of trying to build the online branding and PR side of everything, and it’s comforting to know others feel the same.

When I finished the script for the short, as well as the obvious support of the filmmaking team, and an amazing OH (who built the website), I have had so much help from the many women I see in my day to day life. Most of them are mums with their own businesses or ideas for businesses. They have been brilliant with suggestions and support for the project, and this seems like a good time to mention Vicky and Beanie for your great ideas, Emma for encouragement, wine and online help, Bunny for constant support and supply of props, Bec, Sarah, Karen, Lia, Anna, Anna, Anna (popular name) Elaine and Sophie, for listening and recently Erin, for being such a blog expert.

There are oodles of great dads out there as well. I don’t mean to exclude you, it’s just that I’ve benefited from a big community of mums. If any of you are reading, I would love to hear about your experiences of juggling work/fulltime dad. Have you found the same support?

There are so many homes run and prams pushed by clever, resourceful and entrepreneurial brains. So, I think it’s fine to take a day off every now and then and devote it to coffee, cake and catching up, because often, that’s where the best ideas are born.

Posted in Being a mum, Filmmaking | 1 Comment

A simple swim – next attempt

Well, I’m sure you’ve all been dying to know what happened next! Was that the end of my quest for exercise? Will I now stick to writing and only writing, and never leave the house again?

Well, the minute I got in the water, all was forgotten. I do enjoy swimming, and it always has a good effect on my spirits. The pool was a tad crowded, but I managed 30 lengths, before giving up altogether. Still a long way to go till the 50 lengths required for a mile but it’s a start.

Week 2:
“You need to get here earlier”, regular readers will recall the advice given from the receptionist at Wimbledon in my last post. So, the next week, feeling much more positive about nailing this bizarrely complicated process of swimming on a Saturday morning, I left, bound for Wimbledon. It was about 08:20, so I was in for 08:45.

Early enough or so I thought….

There I was, merrily swimming backstroke with a few other keen swimmers early on a Saturday morning. I noticed the pool emptying. Brilliant, I thought, this really is a great time to come along. Cracked it!

My arm went back and hit a rope. Strange. I looked to see that the end of the pool had been cordoned off. Lessons started at 0900. Resisted the urge to weep and carried on. So much trickier when you have to turn around without pushing off from the wall. I stopped counting lengths, another doomed attempt to reach my mile.

Next time I looked up, a side of the pool had also been roped off for a lesson. I felt like I was swimming in a box that was getting smaller and smaller. Soon I’d be swimming circles inside a small square.

We carried on, us ‘serious’ swimmers, who had clearly failed to be ‘serious’ enough to get there in time for a proper uninterrupted swim.

Added to the general restricted space, was an elderly gentleman. I recognised him from the week before, swimming diagonally, lengthways, widthways, and just generally floating. You know the character. They’re at every pool, and we’ve met them before.

I was going to give up, when suddenly I hit the wall again. The ropes had gone, we were free from confinement! Brilliant, except that now it seemed to be official family time. I stuck it out for a couple more lengths and left before being dive-bombed by a toddler or unwittingly swimming into one.

Ok, slightly better than last week, but the weekly swim strategy still needs tweaking! Why is this so difficult?! No wonder there’s an obesity problem – we need more swimming pools for actual swimming. Now there’s an idea.

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Just going for a simple swim – or so I thought…

Something that happened to me a short while ago…

Since glorious motherhood, swimming hasn’t quite been the regular sporting hobby it once was. I just don’t get that many opportunities to go. But, I had decided that enough excuses had been made, I was going to find an hour somewhere. This was after all what had inspired the film.

Enter the discovery of a local dads and babies monthly Saturday breakfast club – what a brilliant idea. Off I packed them for the morning, resisted the temptation to crawl back under the duvet, dug out the sports bag, dusted it down, found a cozzie somewhere in the dark depths of the wardrobe – and hoped to goodness it still fitted.

A swim early on a Saturday morning…how difficult can that be? Oh, the refreshment, the excitement, the ‘me’ time.

0840 – left the house, bound for Clapham Manor Road pool. A favourite outside lido season, simply because there was always enough lane space for actual swimming. (Northern line: 4 stops)

Feeling delightfully happy and smug (look at me, I’m a mum and I’m out all by myself, aren’t I clever) as I speeded towards the pool, in eager haste and skipped round the corner to see…a huge metal gate pulled over the entrance with a sign on the front. I hoped the sign said it as about to open in 5 minutes. It didn’t of course, but I hoped.

0905 – I forget the details, but the important point being made by the sign was that the pool would definitely not be opening that day, or any other soon due to ‘essential maintenance’. It mentioned the nearby Brixton pool. Ok, I’ll go there. It’s taken over a year to get this close to actual exercise, I can’t stop now! Pounded back off to the tube. (Northern line: 2 stops, Victoria: 1 stop)

0935 – Brixton Pool. Now I don’t know what it was precisely, but I started to have a bad feeing whilst standing in the queue. No other swimmers were there and there was a curious notice on the desk that seemed to mention the word swimming. I tried to ignore the foreboding feeling. Why would the notice in Clapham have sent me here if it weren’t open? That would just be foolish.

0945 – My turn, but I had lost confidence; I knew there was a problem. My voice was unusually high and timid. I knew it, I was right! I could see the apologetic shifting in the seat, the pitying look behind the counter, as she explained the pool was closed until 13.45. Something to do with lifeguard training, I think. I’d stopped listening. Her head was on one side, she smiled sympathetically – it didn’t help.

‘Oh’ I managed, quickly accompanied with a stern look, to show my displeasure (pathetic, I know). This wasn’t helped by trying to leave through a door that was ‘Entrance only’.

0950 – outside, I assessed my options. Go home, broken and defeated, and unlikely to venture out for a swim again – ever. Or carry on in a quest that had now become personal. I carried on!

Where to go? Balham – rumoured to have a decent pool, but I’ve no idea where it is. Tooting – had a bad swimming experience there and never been back. Will tackle again another day. Tooting Bec Lido – lovely, but it was still out of season. Wimbledon – well, it’s on a tube and I know the way.

(Victoria line: 1 stop, Northern line: 8 stops, followed by a walk)

1025 Wimbledon. I’d been travelling for almost an hour, most of that time spent dashing back and forth around south-west London on the tube, passing 16 stops and covering quite a bit of distance on foot. I live in a huge metropolis; I just wanted to have a simple swim. If ever my little comedy film about the plight of the swimmer needed making, it was now!

I entered the building, slowly approached the desk and stared pleadingly into the
eyes of the receptionist. I steadied my voice,

“Are you open for swimming?”

“Sure, but it’s shame you couldn’t have got here earlier, the pool’s always quite full by this time.”

If only she knew.

I nodded numbly, paid and went inside to my fate.

Posted in Filmmaking, Swimming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ageism in the writing world!

Just spotted a writing competition for any budding screenwriters out there, called One Word.

It’s a brilliant idea as by only allowing you one word, it really focuses you on writing visually, however…

Think I’m being nice sharing my find? Well, actually it turns out I’m not allowed to enter anyway, because I’m apparently too old! The cheek! I was just starting to feel clever and inspired as a couple of ideas slowly unfolded in my head, but on closer perusal of the rules…it’s for 19-26 year olds only. Ageism lives on!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this age group. No envy for those in the midst of their early 20’s, I seem to remember being broke for most of mine, although at the time that seemed fine. Far too busy studying, travelling and eventually ‘living the dream’ which was in fact doing my time in under-paid, over-worked, entry-level jobs (made a lot of tea, did a lot of photocopying) whilst living in a tiny one-bed flat in Clapham. Ah, happy days.

I don’t mean to single out these competition organisers in particular, they are just doing the same as so many others – and that’s why I’m annoyed. I remember spending sometime at writing workshops that were aimed for the under 25s, and panicking about the approach of my next birthday – Oh no! That’s it, if I’m not published, if my play isn’t put on, my film not picked up and made in the next 3 months, I’m done for! Dream over.

Now to be clear, I think it’s great to encourage the youth of today to pick up their pens and have a go at writing and being generally creative. It’s a great leveller giving everyone a chance to tell their story, have their voice heard, discover a new talent, a new ambition. In fact, my neighbour runs a charity (Body Action Campaign – no link I’m afraid, website coming soon) aimed at allowing socially disadvantaged children to spend time creating animations, puppet shows and films and she’s seen the experience make a real difference to their lives in respect of such things as confidence and skill building.

But do these skills and talents disappear on our 26th/27th birthday? Surely, we get better with age (like wine). Competitions for young people are great, but perhaps run another for those of us that are over 26…has anyone ever seen a competition specifically for the over 26? I haven’t, but I’d love to hear if you have.

Age shouldn’t be a barrier. And so, to those that have moved into, or beyond, their late 20s, let’s reserve the right to never stop trying to make that ambition a reality. Lots of people do – but there’s no room for that kind of talk on this blog! Pick up your pens and write (or whatever your dream is)! I’m only 32 for goodness sakes, I’m not done with life yet.

If any of you are eligible to enter the above competition – let me know how you do!

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A new dawn…

Had a blog to write last night, but my appetite went after the evening’s events.

So just a few thoughts:

I remember the dizzying feeling of relief and excitement as an undergrad as we crowded around the one small TV in our halls of residence, to see Labour storm to victory in 1997. The end of an era that had sent so many people into despair. Huge companies closed – mining, manufacturing all but obliterated for example, millions unemployed, and interest rates at a high. All that and the fashions of the 80s – it’s a wonder we got through.

We knew what we were saying goodbye to, but also what we were welcoming in. It wasn’t so clear-cut of course, this is politics after all. By the time I got to my 3rd year, tuition fees were introduced, then some years later we went to war. You know the rest.

But we enjoyed many benefits under Labour as well, such as the minimum wage, paternity leave, better maternity leave, child tax credits, investment in public services, peace in Northern Ireland, gift aid, to name but a few.

What are we waking up to today? A bright new future where a ConLib coalition really works for fairness and the greater good? I want to believe that, simply so that I can sleep at night, but I’m not convinced. As a mummy with a little girl that very much appreciates the provisions made possible by SureStart, I wonder at the Tories proposed cuts in funding. I believe SureStart is on the hit list. Taking from babies and toddlers to massage the egos of big business and banks? Interesting policy.

So now, we know what we’re saying goodbye to, but what are we welcoming in? Can the Libs soften Torism? Let’s hope so.

Promise to be back with something cheerier soon!

Great blog for further reading: http://futiledemocracy.wordpress.com/

Posted in Being a mum | 1 Comment