Wednesday, 21 January 2015

COUGH UP NO SHOW


A recent story had me laughing out loud due to the sheer lunacy of it, and how apropos it was to my own life. This weekend the King has two birthday parties back to back on the same day. That sheer sentence sends shivers down my spine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrations, especially the kind when you can drop your child off and run for the hills; but the thought of being trapped at a germ ridden location with 30 screaming kids hopped up on sugar, well, a techno rave would be more soothing on the adrenal system. But alas, after asking the King copious amount of times if he wants to go (the King is not in full grasp of the RSVP protocol) and telling him that he cannot change his mind at the last minute, he seems pretty excited about his burgeoning social schedule (or let’s be frank, just wants to eat cake twice a day).

The story that caught my eye, and sent me howling with laughter involves a 5 year old boy that was sent an invoice for not showing up at a birthday party. Yes, you heard me. As the story goes, a young boy from Cornwall was invited to a birthday party just before Xmas at a dry ski slope. His parents accepted the invitation, but then realized they had double booked  as the boy was supposed to spend the day with his grandparents (why didn't granny and gramps just come to watch him ski? Fun for all). The parents then failed to let the mother know who was throwing the party that they wouldn't be coming. A few weeks later, the child received an invoice for £15.95 in his book bag that said that the little boy’s non-attendance left her out of pocket and she wanted them to pay up.

The boy’s father was told that if he didn’t pay the invoice he would be taken to small claims court, but legal experts said the money would be extremely difficult to get back as there had been no contract created that stated that a 'no show fee' would be put into effect. (If birthday parties get to this point, you can definitely count me out). Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand the parent who lost money felt annoyed by that, and we have all been the victims of the rsvp process. Just plan a wedding and you’ll want to mow down half your guests for not getting back to you until a week before the ceremony. But to go as far as issuing an invoice to a child, well now you are just coming off looking like a petulant child yourself. The parent of the boy in question explained that he understands her being upset, but she could’ve approached him in many different ways and explained the situation. Her response, the information was on the invite, you didn’t show, pay up.

So what’s the moral here? People have bad manners…yes, that’s a given [and one of the reasons I keep my circle small; less disappointment and less interaction with the fray]. Don’t throw a party that is going to cost you an arm and a leg…check! And if half the party doesn’t show, don’t go off half-cocked and start writing invoices to your kid’s entire class, probably not the best course of action. It’ll certainly lose him friends and set him up for a playground beat down.

My advice, keep parties small, cheap and stocked with booze (that way, if someone doesn’t show up, you simply won’t care).

Happy hump day all.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A YEAR OF NEW


Happy New Year's people. Another year, another holiday season behind us…are you as tired as I am? Yes, I am back in the land of the living, and somewhat ready to face another year (although when traveling with children, one is never vacationing, one is on a ‘trip’). This holiday, like many before, we went to Wales for a little country retreat. Our main goal for going is to breathe clean air, be as remote as possible (although I’m reevaluating this decision) and give the King a taste of non-city life. And usually our mission is definitely accomplished. 

We usually rent somewhere in North Wales near Snowdownia. If you haven’t been, it’s worth the trek, I can assure you. What you can expect from said surroundings….rolling hills, snow capped mountains, Welsh cakes (yum), a ton of sheep and road signs you can’t decipher for the life of you. The Welsh language is an utter mystery to me and appears to have more consonants in a word than the Polish language. Which is a hard feat. Basically a car conversation with my husband goes like this, him: ‘Look at all those sheep...Wow, there is a lot of sheep here….So, where are we? Um….Dgonelllynennnwmetlllen. I think? I can’t read the road signs….Whoa, look out for the sheep!’

The house we rented was a lovely stone and wood beamed house in the middle of the nowhere. And I mean nowhere. It was on a working farm, up a 3-mile mountain traverse with roads smaller than a pavement. How we managed to navigate up there in the pitch black (street lamps are not a Welsh indulgence) is beyond me. After several wrong attempts and having to be rescued by Farmer Rob, we finally managed to find the house. We went up with another family with two kids, and with three kids under the age of 5 in one small house, let’s just say, we took ample opportunity to run them outside like dogs (and yes, young children scare the crap out of sheep). Barring a few hiccups (a few broken glasses, and a potential house fire thanks to the children and their desire to cover the lamps with stuffed animals) we got the lay of the land quick enough. 

What does one do in Wales you ask? Well, we always manage to slip into country life with city ferocity of course. My husband channels his best camp counselor (whilst baking every twenty minutes… the man loves to bake) and organizes our days like a military commander. Then we wrap the little people up like they’re going to the tundra and head out for adventure walks (as my husband calls them; my best summation, the adventure is trying to avoid all the cow and sheep sh*t), forest hikes, beach runs (this is Wales people, you hit the beach in full snow gear not a bikini in site) and food of course. Being Wales, (and being Londoners) this isn’t always the easiest feat. After eating a meal in the local town we decided cooking in for the rest of the trip was the wisest option. Not to mention, the only large supermarket was 45 miles away and of course the one day we set out to do our shop, after an hour drive with kids in tow, we showed up at the market to be told it had closed at 4. Yes, I had a true Chevy Chase (in Vacation) moment when I was told that bit of information.

Needless to say, after 8 days of no internet (sublime), plenty of board games, being well fed by the husband, kids running around like maniacs and fresh Welsh air, we were very sad to return to the city. Although this said, something tells me that the sheep were very happy to see us leave.  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH


Parenting is work. You’ve heard that time and time again. It’s one of the hardest jobs you will ever do (and well, why so many parents drink). And in the moment, especially in the throes of raising a young child who has yet to develop reason and a balanced emotional state (then again, this takes most people their entire lives), you may think that is the understatement of the year.

The thing is, most jobs that you do outside of the home, they are of course hard, challenging, high stress positions – unless you have gone the non-stressful chilled out occupational route of underwater basket weaving which is becoming more enviable in my mind. But you are usually dealing with people who have the ability to reason (usually), and who do not have tantrums over the specific shade of a jumper being not quite right (again, there are adult exceptions to this rule and I’ve worked for a few of them). Furthermore, with one’s boss in a normal work environment, you have no emotional attachment to them (unless they’re your husband/wife etc. and then good luck because that’s a tough path to navigate), you physically leave them after work is done, and you don’t have the psychological fear that you are scarring them straight into the therapist’s chair. Not to mention, you can usually have some sort of constructive dialogue when you reach an impasse that doesn’t result in a stand off that results in them taking off their clothes and climbing under a table and refusing to come out (if your boss is doing this, I suggest some strong medication and a visit to a psychicatrist).

At the moment the King is truly well entrenched in the willful stage of "NO, I simply don’t feel like it." It’s different than the two-year-old stage where they’ve just learned the word no because they don’t have the dialogue to back it up. But when they’re older, and they’ve learned how the world works a bit better (and have learned the art of being clever and defiant at the precise time you need them to be malleable) the word NO suddenly becomes a weapon that can be aimed straight at your adrenal system. Time to get dressed, 'NO, I don't want to'; We’re off to school, 'NO'; Eat your breakfast, 'No, I'm not hungry'; Let’s put our shoes on, 'NO, I don't like those shoes'…..okay then, let’s just get drunk and pretend that mommy has a clue as to what she’s doing and can get you out the front door without the neighbours thinking that mommy has lost her marbles. 

In addition to the King’s 'no' behavior of late is the mix of emotion and testosterone surging through his little boy body. Two very powerful beasts that wreak havoc on….well just about any situation that is can easily run amuck. Imagine having all this blazing fire inside of you with no ability to reason or understand intellectually where these emotions are coming from (um, that just may sum up decades of my life). I can imagine this is what it feels like to be a 4/5 year old child. Then you throw in a parent who is trying to throw rules and directives into the mix and well, you tell me how good you think it’s going to end. And I can assure you, all the reward charts and bribery in the world is sometimes not enough to quell the storm inside these little people with their own designs and desires on how the world should work. 

I suppose the one thing a boss and a five-year-old child actually do have in common is their ability to wield fear. I never thought it possible, in fact I used to scoff in the face of those that feared their children, but at the moment, I would not go as far to say that I necessarily fear the King, but I definitely fear the sh*tstorm that he can conjure up, especially in public places (my son? nooo that's not my son lying in the middle of aisle four screaming my name; I'm not sure what he's talking about). It’s like watching a storm move in, the little signs, the small triggers, the twitch of the lip as you internally holler, please god nooooo, as you do your best to do anything to avoid what’s to come. Then again, I used to have bosses I feared, but I knew if it got too terrible, I could ultimately tell them to stick it and find another job. But despite my threats to put my son on eBay, a parent cannot find another job (calm down, nor would we want to…but a child free vacation, now that would be nice from time to time). Parenting is for life and your main job requirement is not only to love them and keep them alive, but not screw them up in the process. 

Hmm, right about now, I’m thinking perhaps my husband and I deserve a raise.





Thursday, 4 December 2014

NATURE, NOT FOR THE FRAGILE


Any mother (or father for that matter) can tell you that once you have children, you suddenly become unable to watch (or read about) many shows/films that you used to watch before. Be it their subject content or their tone, you find yourself in mid program cringing in fear or weeping like a child as you feel your parental synapses on meltdown. You soon realize that you’ve suddenly become much more precious - and frighteningly empathetic -  since parenting took hold. 

Admittedly, I was okay for awhile…or perhaps I was just too tired to find the correct remote control, and then of course the brain took hold, emotions ran amuck and I found myself weeping at commercials appealing to end world’s hunger, especially those commercials with children looking bereft and hungry (not that I didn’t weep before, but suddenly it became a necessity to end world hunger NOW since the birth of the King). Not to mention, when I watched certain TV shows I could hear myself uttering phrases that sounded like something my mother would say – ‘Do they need all this excessive violence? Why must they show that, it’s only 8 o clock for god sakes.’ 

The other night, when I was uttering my usual phrase to my husband of, 'let’s just not watch anything too dark,' we opted for a sweet little nature show that had aired on the BBC.  I, feeling rather precious at the time, figured a harmless nature show about animals parenting their young could be right up my alley. I mean, honestly, what could be so bad? UM, well, seemingly I forgot that what occurs in nature is bloody ruthless and it makes a pack of wild four year olds look like choirboys. For starters, as I clearly forgot, merely keeping your baby alive out in the wild is a feat for any animal. Everyone is prey to someone bigger, scarier and hungrier and that makes for problematic parenting. Forget about trying to find appropriate childcare, just making sure your kid doesn't become lunch becomes the main occupation for many animals. Be it the buffalo who has to protect their young from unrelenting wolves, who as you can imagine are much more dexterous and quick than a lumbering buffalo, to the spider monkeys (I think it was a spider monkey, at a certain size all monkeys start to look the same to me) who have to fend off other freaking monkeys from killing their young, it’s a cutthroat world out in nature land. Fine, fear another species, but an attack from  your own kind? That's just rude. 

Then there were the animals that flat out abandoned their young even before their birth, as clearly in their species childrearing is not part of the package (yes, humans have sadly mirrored this all too often). The sea turtle for example who battled unbelievable odds just to get on the damn beach (through rocks, storms and other things trying to kill it) to lay her eggs, only to amble off and disappear back into the ocean never to be seen again. This of course caused me to scream at the TV, while my husband tried to calm me down with herbal tea, ‘What the hell?? She’s just going to leave her kids like that after all that effort?! Who the hell is going to raise them now?’ He didn’t have the heart to break it to me that most baby turtles don’t make it to the ocean’s edge after busting out of their eggshell. Then there was a bird that innocently sat on her eggs waiting eagerly to become a mother. Little did she know that a rival bird had put her own egg in the mother’s nest so that she didn’t have to raise it. And not only was this bird much uglier at birth (I know, love is unconditional…and clearly very very blind), but once out of the shell, it had the audacity to push the mother's biological eggs out of the nest when Mamma bird was out foraging for food. And let me tell you, this poor unsuspecting Mamma bird had to hightail it out of the nest every two minutes to find food. This monstrous little ball of feathers made the King look like a food amateur. Ah yes, a mother's work is tireless.

Needless to say, after my nerves were frayed and I realized nature (and human kind) is not for the precious or the overly sensitive, I reached for my book with not a death scene or child abandonment issue  in sight (and suddenly realised why my older sister has taken to watching the CW Channel). Come to think of it, I’ll be watching Korean cartoons (don’t ask) with the King in no time.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

IT'S A WRAP


We’ve just wrapped on our film Battlecreek. I say our, because it is truly that, our film; a group effort that began with a script that I poured my heart into it years ago, and then was turned over to a team of people – lead by a triumvirate of the most kick ass women (ahem) - who infused it with an incredible amount of talent, skill and passion.

And thanks to my decisions as a writer, sorry all (!), this shoot was not for the faint of heart. The script took place predominantly at night, which meant night shoots almost the entire month we shot that ended most days at 5 in the morning. The crew would then have to break everything down and return to set the following day, mere hours later, to start the process all over again. Needless to say, by the shoots end, people were sick (and I’m sure sick of each other) tired, and eagerly begging for a good night’s sleep.

I flew out recently for the last week of shooting (as I had to disappear for a bit in the middle of the shoot to make sure the King remembered who I was). Upon my return to set, I was able to watch some of my favourite scenes brought to life, the scenes that held the emotional meat of the script. It’s surreal enough to watch your words play out in front of you, but to see them brought to life in such a beautiful, nuanced and expressive way by such incredible actors, well, needless to say, it made me cry like a baby (and I saw a few crew crying as well, so I’m happy to say, it took down the strongest of men).

People asked me throughout the process if it was what I had imagined in my head for so long - the locations, the actors, the overall feeling. And my response was always an unequivocal yes, beyond what I imagined actually. It is a surreal thing to walk around in this created, dimensional world and realize that what is exists in front of you is even more profound than what was in your head. Not to mention, it confirmed what I’ve always known, that good acting is an art and it can elevate a script to an entirely new level (and of course, in a more general sense, conversely, bad acting can be equally as profound, just not in a good way!). By shoot’s end, it was so abundantly clear that our casting was pinpoint perfect and these actors had truly become the characters on the page.

Then there was the crew. The tireless (f*cking kick ass) crew of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met; for some, seasoned veterans that taught us all a thing or two, and others first timers like myself who were aching to prove their worth; each with their own dreams, talents and aspirations that they brought to set and poured into this project. Led of course by our female Queen of a director that I have known since I was a little girl and love to the bottom of my heart –Watching her have come into her own over the years (she and I have shared many memories and trajectories, shall we say) and share my vision to such a degree (by the end of the shoot she knew the script far better than I did) was a profound thing that I wouldn’t have wanted to share with anyone else.

I walk away from this experience of course wanting more. I’m inspired like I’ve never been, in awe of the filmmaking process that I have so loved for most of my life, and have learned so much from so many talented people. It’s also an incredible thing to watch passion become a palpable thing. Watching people night after night, hour after hour tirelessly work to make everything look and run seamlessly, well that’s an impressive thing. Even down to the (fantastic) woman feeding us on set and making sure we didn’t all keel over, well the team spirit was never in finer form…I’m not na├»ve of course, there were certainly moments where the team effort fell victim to the normal tensions and tumults (that’s a polite way of saying there were of course times people wanted to smack one another) that can exist on any project, but overall the focus always returned to the project.

So here’s what I hope, I hope that more independent projects are given a shot to exist and breathe and see the light of day. I hope that more woman helm projects and prove that we are a force to be reckoned, I hope that I have many more opportunities to tell a story that resonates with so many. And I hope that I – along with our team – have contributed a story into the filmmaking annals that will leave its mark and add a little bit of special to a world that often overlooks such things.