The Poster of My Life
There have been times in my life when someone’s said something which gave me a sense of my own mortality in that, despite a seemingly long and complex human life, these were the sentences that would stick with me in my psyche and meant that I could be distilled down into a collection of bullet points. They were such that if my life were a touring theatre show then these would be the quotes that went on the poster. Some of them stuck in my craw, some in my heart, and all have been swirling around in my head for years now, but I’ve finally done my best to pull them all together. The good. The bad. The unbelievable.
Three “You’re Funny”
There are three times under the age of twenty-five when I noted that people told me I was “funny”. Sharing a train ride back home I was informed that a particular girl thought I was “funny”, although I wasn’t too sure from the description where this meant funny-peculiar, or funny-ha-ha. I never bothered finding out.
Whilst the second occasion escapes me now the third was when I lived in the attic of a student house and the sometime supposed drug dealer who lived below was trying very kindly to big me up whilst drunk, and told me I was a “funny guy”, whilst I sat at the top of the stairs and he stood at the bottom. You’d think that this is the sort of manly-bonding that I should take to heart, but then for an encore he fell over and ripped the banister off the wall. Now that’s funny, but I’m not sure that this is the guy I should be taking life advice from.
Two “Too Nice”
I have found that “too nice” is the ultimate put-down for, as someone once explained to me, it’s not really something you can argue about.
The first girl to tell me I was “too nice” was someone I met up with through a dating website and, after spending the whole weekend in some Yorkshire village, she used this as a reason of what was wrong with me. Along with the fact that I “wasn’t enough of a b@st@rd” and that she couldn’t find the catch in me as I appeard to be “too good to be true”. You try squaring all those comments and tell me where I’m going wrong. She really did mean “too nice” as a criticism.
After this being told, out of the blue, that I was “too nice” by a pretty girl with a big shiny forehead in Costa Coffe was like a nail in my coffin. Especially as my only motive this time was trying to avoid any accusation of cake-based fraud. Who else considers cake-based fraud, but me? I think being nice really must be the least of my problems.
Top Five Chart Countdown
Let’s get it out the way first: “I don’t mind you looking at your watch, sir, but when you shake it…” were the fateful words that the actor Jon Pertwee mortified a 14 year old child with. That’d be me. Only this is what he really said and not what, for twenty years, I misremembered / mis-imagined he said. I’ve written about that whole saga elsewhere on here although that’s ruined for you now.
During the process of pitching my second short film to an industry panel, who were going to choose five out of the twenty scripts to be put into production, I was thrilled to be told later on that mine was top of the pile even before I’d stepped into the room. That’s not even the best bit.
It was during the process of getting the script to a final shooting draft, in a meeting with others, that the Producer gave me what’s probably my most professional-sounding quote to date when she explained to the others, across me as if I wasn’t there, that: “He hides his exposition in conflict and comedy”.
I thought it was so impressive that I wrote it down in my notes, drew a box around it, and wrote quote of the day next to it. I was impressed, even if nobody else in the meeting was.
There have been two times in my life when I’ve been competing with one other person for a job. The odds were good, you’d think, but then I am the sort of person who uses up all my luck to get served by particular girls in shops.
The first was for a lab job that the science agency I was with were keen for me to go for. At the interview there were just two of us. I had real-life experience working for an American pharmaceutical company, whereas my competitor had been working in a record shop. It was a shoe-in. The whole interview, I realise now, hinged upon one final question that required a Yes-No answer. It was: If you got this short-term maternity-cover job, seeing that there’s absolutely no chance of the contract being renewed, or lengthened, would you still be looking for another job whilst you worked here?
The answer I gave was, in every respect, the wrong one.
I don’t imagine laughing whilst I answered it probably helped either.
The second time was for a science writing job in London. I passed the first interview and got set a remote second interview to research and write a report on a particular chemical company. I must’ve done well as I then got called back for a third stage interview where it was me against one other person. I didn’t get the job, as you could have guessed, but upon rejection I did what all those career’s advice people recommend and wrote back asking for feedback. I’ve only read the reply once, in the eight years since getting it, because it was so stark in its honesty that I was almost sick in the library when I opened the e-mail.
Trawling back through my e-mails now, for your reading pleasure, I see that what I’ve tried so hard to forget is that it was reported that in the interview I “came across as aggressive”, that my replies were given in a “terse way”, and that I seemed “angry at the interview and some of the questions”.
This was then followed up with: “The person to whom we offered the job was far less aggressive and for me seemed to be a person I could work with more easily”.
Now I don’t doubt what he says, as he was a nice chap, but aggressive and angry really isn’t me so it was shocking to see myself described in this way. Still it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered as I thought he’d written that he “couldn’t work with me”. I mean he practically did, but not quite. And I came away from that interview thinking I’d done well.
The one that involves the girl who has the title of the love of my life. It was coming up to her finishing university before me, before moving to Birmingham, and I guess I was trying to raise that difficult question… somehow…
We were spending the day visiting Betws-y-Coed and I still remember exactly where we were, on a bit of grass just near the station, when she kindly let me down with the immortal words now seared into my soul: “Well, I’m not going to marry you!”
True to her words she married someone else. Quite rightly so. We’re still in touch today. And she’s more famous than me already.
People say things which are disposable, to them, but you never know what is going to resonate with someone else. I can’t quite work out what prompted this assessment, in an e-mail conversation with my friend, but she offered up: “You are a terribly terribly complicated person. That is all I will say.”
I was delighted, much to her bemusement, mainly because she’s a qualified psychologist of some note and so I took this as a professional diagnosis. I knew then that if there was a single quotable line I could take about my life then this was it. I told my friend that I’d quote her on that.
She wasn’t to impressed with that. Suggesting that if I did that she’d get struck off before she was even qualified.
She compromised on me not “quoting” her off-the-cuff comment anywhere near ANYONE with any connection to the British Psychological Society.
And reader, to this day, I’ve never told a living soul… Err…
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
And one final thing, which sort-of fits in here, with actions speaking far louder than words ever can was when a girl I know turned down the advances of the multi-millionaire son of a multi-multi-millionaire World-famous Pop star.
But yet she would sleep with me.
When she told me that fact it blew my mind.
It still does.
And I guess all that adds up to the poster of my life.
Coming to a town near you sometime soon.
Matinees on Saturday.