Monday, 15 November 2010

Gráinne gets a new job.

When you’ve never experienced it, falling in love seems like quite an intimidating thing. When I was younger I just couldn’t imagine this big complicated feeling, a passion that inspires poets, changes history, starts wars and ends films could ever personally involve me. That said; I’d never really wanted to go out with anyone. The thought of truly getting to know someone had all the attraction of inviting a stranger around for a social root about in my bathroom dustbin. Hey there stranger; person I find sexually attractive, how about popping around and getting to know me in all my wobbly, secondhand, cry when I’m drunk tediousness? And while you’re at it, would you like to see me first thing in the morning too? I don’t even like spending time in my own company, not sober at least, why would I expect anyone else to? No thanks. I’d been born with a port wine stain on my personality, a fermenting, boil of neediness and inadequacy that if brushed with any sort of affection would pop and repulse anyone unlucky enough to be around it.

I was however blessed with low standards and high expectations; I thought the solution was to just go out with someone I didn’t really like for as long as it took for them to accidently stumble over the real me. Then when my game was up, we could shake hands, shrug shoulders and maybe go out for breakfast. The trick was to not to really like anybody then you could never ever be hurt. My only other option was to fall in love with someone who then, immediately, tragically died, never to learn how truly messy my bedroom could get. Then I would have all the glamour of a tragic love affair, a tale I could talk about for ages and a perfect excuse never to have to go out with anyone ever again. But that was the ideal and who could bank on that?

What is unexpected about falling in love is that when it happens, how easy it is. Such a pivotal thing that you secretly yearn for, that people spend their lives aching for and when it happens it’s as easy as falling asleep. Love, this ancient celebrity that cameod in Shakespeare, did the dirt on Vincent Van Gogh, wooed Elizabeth Taylor, is now nuzzling up to you and laughing at your jokes. In the wise words on Cheryl Cole- It’s bonkers, pet!

Two months in and the novelty of working in an Irish bar was wearing off. Already some of the girls from the bar were migrating to teaching. Kelly, an orange faced prematurely middle aged girl in her mid twenties had been the first to jump ship. She had an unnerving habit of sighing before, during and after everything she said, as if too emphasis just how weary of this mortal coil she truly was. Every piece of news, flummery, whisp of gossip was met with furrow browed resignation, as though at the age of 26, literally nothing surprised her anymore. Maybe she was misunderstood, maybe she really had had an exciting life, maybe she was just being slowly poisoned by St. Tropez. Her personality met at that special place on the attitude chart where frumpiness and competitiveness towards all other females met.

Yes, teaching had easy hours and weekends off, but I was no Kelly. I wanted to stay at the Bar with Laura and Ife. Laura was a fumbling girl from Nottingham that had ended up in Madrid en route from her year in Australia. Laura seemed to do most things accidentally and it was her shambliness and honesty that made her so adored by everybody. She had a rueful way of apologising for being rubbish that made you want to buy her a fur coat and a tiara. Whatever you were doing, she assured you, was brilliant, any plans she’d go along with, every fact you told was remarkable, every story fascinating. She was home made flesh, a calm Queen of Hearts to my slightly deranged Princess Margaret. You didn’t just want her as you best friend, you hoped that she considered you hers.

Ife was one of the most confident people I’d ever met. An assistant manager at the bar, back in London she worked as a high powered TV producer and gave off the swagger of impregnable competency. A rock. An island. That was until you got to know her and realised that she displayed her independence with the same pride and vulnerability of a twelve year old showing off their new tree hut. There were also endearing gaps in her general knowledge, like when watching an interview with Shaking Stevens she asked confused, hadn’t he converted to Islam. Or when she matter of factly explained that the reason she’d chosen a trip to Caesars Palace over the Grand Canyon on her last holiday was because, she’d already seen the Grand Canyon on television. Or the period in her life when her close friends were genuinely worried she thought she was going out with Pharrell Williams. Then she stopped being my intimidating new boss and became the friend who I could trust with my life.

Week nights were spent at the bar getting drunk on appropriated wine, Saturday nights at R&B clubs where we were sexually molested on the dance floor to a baseline and every Monday whoever wasn’t working would join Gerard for the weekly pub quiz. There, not only did I improve my general knowledge, I learnt about myself. Like the time a new member of our team had the gall, the rudeness to answer more questions than me and in frustration I hid his chair when he was in the toilet forcing him to join another table. Looking at the glares from my teammates I discovered that I did have a competitive side outside All You Can Eat Buffets after all.

Sometimes we were joined for drinks by the other barmen. Shane was a slightly gawky, graduate who had come to Madrid to study guitar. He was sweet and funny but with an earnestness that became quickly irritating. While I tried to forget I was living in Spain, he stopped just short of wearing a sombrero to work. When I had to ring my landlady to let her know that I was moving out, and regally announced that I needed to borrow someone’s Spanish, he smugly refused. I think he thought he was making a tough to be kind comment on my inability to assimilate into the local culture. Instead it just convinced me he was a smug twat who probably fancied me and was getting a sadomasochistic thrill from making my life difficult for sexual kicks. Who knows, the truth was probably somewhere in the middle. I could only take him in small doses, or diluted with lots of alcohol.

Paul was an architecture student. Unlike us, happy to stay and get quietly pissed, as soon as his shift was over he was off; to meet friends, discover some underground bar he’d read about, or head off to another city for the weekend. He never said much but when he did it was always either sarcastic or taking the piss. We instantly bonded when it became apparent we held Shane, with all his sunny optimism, in equal contempt. He went one better, he didn’t really like anyone who worked in the bar. Apart from me, me he liked. Awkward ribs blossomed into private jokes and soon we could riff for hours on the same subject, as easily and gracefully as ice skaters, whipping past everyone else, giddy with our own speed, spinning with the glee of private laughter. Soon it just became normal for us to sit next to each other, natural to be considered a pair, second nature to seek each other out. He had this killer habit of remembering everything I said, of assuming only I knew what he was talking about, of directing his wisecracks in my direction. He seemed to notice, remember and comment on everything I did and said, in way that made me feel like the most interesting person alive. Things were changing, the thought of seeing him made feel exhilarated and like I wanted to vomit and suddenly I was brushing my hair before work. Days without seeing him felt wasted and were spend chatting to him in my head, collecting stuff to tell him about when I did.

During my first day at my new job at the school Laura texted me to say Paul had been talking about me all morning, and I calmly realised, why one day in ,I already missed him so much.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Working in an Irish Bars for beginners

There are many advantages to working in an Irish bar in a foreign country. You never have to learn their language, you never really have to meet any locals and most importantly, you can still, just about, meet enough new people to convince yourself you’re still having an experience you couldn’t have had at home. It is the microwave meal of foreign travel.

Nobody plans to work in an Irish bar; it’s a waiting room where you pause for life to present its next chapter. People who live abroad are a strange lot anyway. If you’re at home working in a bar, or as a TEFL teacher; people ask questions, wonder what you’re doing next, but if you’re doing the exact same thing, living more or less the same lifestyle in a foreign country, people assume you’re a winner. There are three types of people that you notice working abroad, those there for legitimate career reasons, those pausing for breath, between travels, after uni, a sorbet between youth and responsibility and lost souls, who turn being a foreigner abroad into their entire identity. At home they were just John, but here they are John the Irish Man. They attend Irish nights, listen to trad music, attend Embassy functions, suddenly only James Joyce understands them. Their nationality suddenly makes sense of their life, defines them, excuses all their actions, answers all their questions with the unexpected gratefulness of a diagnosed food intolerance.

The bar I worked in was run by Mathew; a fat pink faced, German school boy of an Irish homosexual. His family owned the entire chain of Irish pubs and Mathew, the runt of the litter, was in charge of ours. We were all terrified of him. He was known to swan into the bar, empty the till, sack a member of staff and disappear for days. He also notoriously, it was whispered, only dated middle aged men that looked like Captain Birds Eye. I ended up living in his flat for two weeks, mid between bolting from Marina’s and moving to another boho dive with a balcony in Lavapies. It was amazing; park views and satellite TV, but I only got to stay there for two weeks before his landlord evicted him. He was that sort of person. Terrified of him, his kindness to this stranger sleeping on his couch made me flinch. In-between hating himself and everyone else, he was as sweet and soft as the fondant fancies he so closely physically resembled.

The real power was Meabh. A tiny, pale wisp of a girl; she may have looked like a frail Victorian ghost but had a disaprooving stare that would terrify any spectral visitor. She had worked at the pub for years and at twenty three had the attitude, wisdom and weariness of someone years older. Initially her toughness, learnt at too young age, frustrated both our attempts at friendships, but over time her kindness and thoughtfulness emerged from her flinty exterior.

Simon was in charge of the late shifts. He was a gorgeous, tanned, shaved head gay man from Manchester, with dry sense of humour and turn of phrase that made you lose your breath. He lived with Gerard in a luxurious flat overlooking Madrid’s transvestite red light district with their pet Chihuahuas. They weren’t a couple but loved and hated each other with all the intensity of one. Gerard spent his weekends drinking and having complicated relationships with South Americans he met in S&M clubs and his weeks as a trade union lawyer fighting for teachers rights in Colombia. After Sunday lunch at their flat, we’d drink gin and tonics, watch the trannies outside and then settle down in front of the only programme on TV in English “Murder She Wrote”. Did you know that nearly every episode ends with Jessica Fletcher pulling a quizzical face? I never really picked up spanish but I did learn that.

The most anticipated customers were the Irish and English lads working in the city. Since none of us spoke Spanish, the those were the only really eligible men, however, they not quite valuing conversation skills as highly as we did, had not only Spanish girls to choose from but every freckly woman’s mortal enemy – the South Americans. The attributes I’d previously considered deal breakers; good sense of humour, being up for the craic, shared knowledge of Neighbours , melted in the hot groomed, sexiness of those girls.

Most of the lads worked for a dodgy local telesales operation that a notorious, but never seen, Irishman ran. Recruited from behind the Irish bars, they were lured with coke, promises of easy money and trips to strip clubs to a business they vaguely described as an investment scheme. The bright eyed boys quickly transformed to loud arrogant customers, visiting their previous place of employment with swaggering wads of cash, the visits diminishing along with their friendliness, until it was vaguely mentioned they’d mysteriously gone back to Ireland, never to be heard of again.

At least we had Lee. A TEFL teacher from Manchester; he was a romantic figure, which even a predilection for pissing in public couldn’t diminish. A spry pixie of a middle-aged man, he had a stunning Spanish girl he cheated on absentmindedly and a twinkle in his eye. When he got drunk, tales from his previous life would seep out. Sad stories of unclaimed children that looked like him, tangled family trees, grim storylines he’d miraculously been able to escape from. Sometimes we were joined by Trevor, a middle-aged man going through a nasty divorce, with an adored daughter who was quite obviously fleecing her lonely Dad. They’d stay late and we’d drink martinis, laugh our legs off and I’d walk home in the night time heat. Was I happy or do I just remember that I was in hindsight? I can’t remember, lets just assume I was, a memory lasting so much longer than the actual moment. Let’s leave me strolling safely home from work, through the stuffy Madrid night, unaware that soon Paul would walk into my life and everything was about to go kaboom! Goodnight Gráinne, save home, enjoy your yoghurt and biscuits in the morning.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Gráinne's Madrid Adventures begin

So there I was in Madrid; the second European country in as many years, that I had moved to more or less by accident.

I spoke no Spanish, had done a TEFL course in the equivalent of The Danny Dywer School of Higher Learning and apart from a frayed sheet of paper with some scribbled email addresses, I was on my own.

I was to move in with Marina, a spindly Spanish girl I had become friends with on the Comedia Dell’Arte course. I thought she was amazing; she drank her coffee black, smoked roll ups and promised to teach me how to eat healthily, flirt with men and walk like a whughhhman. Most importantly, she thought I was adorable and I’d already cast her as the wise Spanish sister who would bestow valuable life lessons.

I had never met anybody like her before; her wiry fidgety street smarts, made my middleclass friends back home seem plump with suburban safe choices. Her eyes had the dark flintiness of someone who had to look after themselves from an early age. I was in equal amounts in awe and slightly terrified of her, but reassured with the knowledge I was in her gang. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and was looking for someone to share the rent; it all seemed perfect.

Her flat was a tiny badly made wardrobe of a place, with a kitchen that looked out onto the inner courtyard; washing the dishes became a romantic Juliet balcony experience, a tiny living room with a fold out bed and Marina’s bedroom, where I would sleep. In the kitchen was a rickety old gas heater, don’t get me wrong, I love crotchedy old things, it’s just not what I look for in gas heating appliances; every time I looked at it I heard Michael Burke’s voice narrating my movements in my head. Not that we ever used it, it was August and the heat was a dry, heavy, overwhelming presence. The entire city felt like a communal sauna.

Marina never seemed to eat and came and left the flat at the strangest hours. All the shopping trips and pavement lunches together I imagined never materialised, in fact I hardly saw her outside the flat at all. Straight away there was always seemed some bill I had to pay, things were always running out just after I used them; printer cartridges, olive oil cans, gas cylinders, purchases that I needed to share.

Marina’s decorating was interesting too. Along with the porn, filed neatly along wit her dvds on top of the cd player, there were least three framed black and white pictures of a naked Marina with only a pearl necklace or cigarette artfully hung around the flat. So this is what sophisticated bohemian life was like I told myself; I was terrified.

The entire flat opened out onto a balcony overlooking the street below. We lived in Lavapies, Madrid’s most colourful/dangerous neighbourhood. I console myself that it’s now a soulless overpriced area with media types and over privileged trust fund brats, whereas when I lived there it was a crime scene with a Metro stop.

Along with the heat there was the continuous wall of sound; from the first beeps of frustrated cars in the morning to the last squeals of children running around worryingly late at night, interrupted by the constant shrieking drone of scooters. It was a battered notice board of student cafes, Moroccan bars and shops selling cheap electrical goods.

Everyday I went to the Supermarcado and had the same breakfast of a yoghurt drink and almond biscuits, prawns and lemon juice by the kilo for lunch and lost about a stone in a month. Every stroll about the area was accompanied by a Greek chorus of men, shouting “Eh Guapaa”. This was not something I took personally; this was a gift to everywoman leaving their house. It became like a verbal mosquito bite, sometimes accompanied by a hiss, inspiring an involuntary hunching of ones shoulders, and scurrying further head down. Say what you like about Irish men, but one cannot accuse them of being over demonstrative about their appreciation for the fairer sex. Two days into my time in Madrid, I began to look back nostalgically on their tongue tied inability to even make contact let alone emit noises. It didn’t make me feel sexy or attractive, I felt like bringing a loud klaxon hailer with me every time I left the house.

Despite this I was beginning to feel a strange combination of spine tingling terror and bullish excitement.
Not understanding the language made every journey outside my flat overwhelming. I felt like I jumping into a foreign sea, any moment I would be swept away in a tide of strange smells and vowel sounds. But beneath that was also an exhilarating rush, I would learn Spanish, become fluent, study physical theatre in a funky underground school, hang out at the cool bars, the illicit thrill of real change was seductively putting it’s arm around my waist. In a rush I signed up for a month of Spanish classes, bought my books, insisted Marina only spoke to me in Spanish. Not only that I devised a timetable for my year in Madrid, everyday I would spend an hour writing, an hour drawing (some landmarks to begin with then move on to sketching the people I saw in cafes at night) an hours physical exercise (running to begin with then possible yoga) an hours Spanish study and then an hours drama class. And get a job. And make friends, and get a boyfriend. I had a lot of work to do.

I began to meet up with my other Spanish friends and try to follow their conversation, but it was different to when we were in Italy. There, the common language was English, so that was spoken in our group. Here in their home country, I felt a bit betrayed by their return to their home tongue. They wanted to stay out late, drink more, go dancing but it was just so hot, even at night. The clubs were sweaty and loud, a zoo of confusion. After about an hour or two I’d feign tiredness and return to the coolness of my bed, the blessed tones of Radio 4 online, like a lighthouse beacon, reminding me of my own world.

My first Spanish class consisted of me and six other Asian girls in a hot classroom in the city centre. My mind wandered as she slowly went through some grammar rule, while the girls tapped away on a little translator handset that looked like a calculator. I tried to concentrate, I think I did, but I’ve never been very good at languages. In general if I’m not really good at something immediately, I quickly, very speedily loose interest. That’s the thing with learning a foreign language, it’s not really good for show offs. Think of the foreigners who spend years and years studying English- do we congratulate them on their excellent use of irregular verbs, their grasp of idiomatic phrases, or do we just take it for granted that they can speak it? Well every culture is like that. The idea of spending months, years, learning a language just so I could be an average Spanish speaker made my mind baulk. How long would it take before I could make jokes, word plays, puns for crying out loud? What was the point? Does the world need one more average Spanish speaker? I then genuinely began to worry that if I did indeed master a second language that other parts of my brain would begin to suffer. What if my new Spanish vocabulary started pushing out my English words? Boring block words for table or meat, muscling out the wimpier, whispier words at the very end of my vocabulary spectrum. My vocabulary was something I jealousy prided myself with paranoid regularity. If I was worried I was getting early dementia or had finally given myself an alcohol induced brain injury I would test myself to see if I could remember my most obscure words. He spoke loquaciously to the timid girl, with obvious lascivious intent…That was who I was, the thought of losing that made my head spin.

And why was I learning it in the first place? Everybody else in the class seemed to have a clear reason: Jobs in Madrid, partners in Spain. My only reason for being there was that it wasn’t Navan and that felt like shaky reasons for concentrating on all that grammar. Learning a language felt like a big sign of commitment, one I wasn’t ready for, If I learnt it properly they might make me stay here - sorry Latin countries don’t get too comfortable, this one’s moving through… I was the jittery boyfriend of foreign tongues.

Marina was throwing herself back into single like with admirable gusto. Walking gingerly past her fold out bed to get to my bedroom, I nearly took part in accidental threesomes on several occasions. She walked around the flat naked, once taking her inhibition to applause inspiring lengths by sitting spread eagled naked, waxing her castanet on the living room couch. Nights in we’d chat in halting Spanish about our love lives. Who was I fucking she’d ask, who did I want to? I blinked back at her confused; I’d been in Madrid three weeks, how on earth would I have time to get to know, let alone like someone, let alone go on the requisite amount of drunken sessions before that lucky fumble occurred? She sneeringly questioned if I had any experience with men at all? My Spanish was terrible but happily, judgment is a universal tongue. We were both mentally putting each other categories and neither were coming out well.

I ate wrong at well. One night, in protest at her diet of chickpeas and onions I provocatively came home with a bag of chips. My greasy unhealthy deep fried carbs, in her skinny Spanish uninhibited sex with stranger’s apartment. She sat down beside me on the couch and began to delicately help herself to some. Shy nibbles quickly speeded into greedy snatches as unselfconsciously, her hand clawing from plate to mouth, ignoring me the entire time, she finished the entire lot in silence. I couldn’t put my finger on why at the time, but something about it turned my stomach.

I was getting lazier with my Spanish classes. There was homework I could not understand so I decided to wait up to ask Marina to help me with it/ do it for me. She finally arrived in late, with strange men, brandishing a bottle of whiskey she proudly declared she’d found on the street. Sensing me uncomfortable, her eyes glinted back darkly, silently challenging me to say something. I searched for my sassy Spanish big sister but she wasn’t there. I saw myself through her eyes; a pudgy spotty middleclass Irish girl in her pyjamas clutching a grammar book, she was subletting her flat to. I took her in and wondered if she wasn’t Spanish, if she was Irish, would I want to be friends with her, would ever have even known each other? Her friends made a joke in Spanish and I felt the room to their laughter.

I finally went along to a performance at the theatre school I was planning to join. I hated it. It was like something you’d see on a world culture section on an international news station late at night. I yearned to have someone to turn around to, someone I knew, someone I could take the piss out of it but there was no one, I was on my own. I felt a jolt of homesickness. Like a dog with an electronic lease, I felt a jolt. I had gone as far as I could. I could change and assimilate no further. I stopped going to the Spanish classes and the next week I had got a job in an Irish bar. Walking into the cool, dark bar, after the eye stinging heat and brightness of the Spanish street,I could have wept with gratitude.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Has X Factor hit a bum note?

I never understood the attraction of autumn. Yes there are the gusty, golden leafed walks home, the lure of guilt free cosy nights in after the pressure of sweaty, inner thigh chafing summer nights and snugly winter wardrobe, but the season always reminded me of sea side fairgrounds closing down, sensible school shoes and homework. That was before X Factor. Then I got it.

I love X Factor, and that’s why I’m worried the dream is over.

When I say I love it, I don’t just mean in a snide, ironic way either. I adored getting caught up in the drama and campness of it all. It was the ultimate Saturday night TV show, the type you’d watch when you were little after your bath drying your hair. Being able to ooh and ahh at Dannii and Cheryl’s clothes, get indignant about song choices, take sides in the scripted fights between the judges; it was wholesome innocent fun. During its run you could strike up a conversation with anybody about it, and have the kind of chats people had in the olden days, when people knew their neighbours, about the woman in the Post Office, but instead about Dannii Minogue, which if anything shows progress. With twitter you could instantly share your experience with friends, strangers, celebrities all watching the exact same performance, listening to the same flat note, puzzled by the same bizarre outfit Danii and Cheryl’s fashion one-upmanship has produced. Apart from celebrity deaths and maybe World War II, I can’t think of any other even that has united people in such a way.

The only people you can’t talk to X Factor about are the tedious point-missers who whine that Simon Cowell is destroying the music industry. Do people honestly think somebody is going to wander into Golden Discs determined to buy Bob Dylan and leaved confused carrying a single by Alexandra Burke? There’s always been bubblegum throw away pop, there have always been manufactured bands, they’ve now just turned the process into a viciously addictive TV show. The songwriters and producers that were going to be writing the records anyway just have a new person to hang their songs on every year that’s all. Yes it is sad to hear a chorus of contestants in their early twenties solemnly declare that this is the last chance. It’s heartbreaking in as much as it’s probably true. Of course, you can have a career as a professional singer at any age, but pop stardom is truly the shortest summer. I watched last year’s live final in a gay bar in Hackney, as the winner was called out we all, strangers, held hands and prayed that little Joe would get through. Did we foresee his mediocre, follow up single? No, but don’t tell me we didn’t care.

That’s why I was disappointed by last Saturday’s flat noted return. It should have been great, since the range of songs the acts can perform seems to have finally widened. Due to licensing reasons, a wish to appeal to the broadest possible demographic and brazen cheapness, the songs previously on the show were confined to the kind of tracks usually heard on compilation albums given out in Sunday supplements. The songs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Unchained Melody” and “Smile” have appeared so many times, that they are ruined forever.

It wasn’t just the news that last week’s figures were down, that made me think the shows salad days were over. It was the introduction of twists and more acts that scared me. Messing with a show’s formats is like a once beautiful actress beginning the first tweaks with plastic surgery. You know in a few years they’ll be an unrecognisable insult to their former beauty. I got flashbacks of the once brilliant Big Brother, which gradually started convoluting their format and introducing a cast of thousands and ended with show more mangled than Meg Ryan’s face.

Secondly, after Jedward’s surprise success, this year all the judges seem to want to have their own crazy contestant. This is a bad thing. The whole point of the duos success was the audience’s unorganised decision to collectively subvert the show. Every time the po-faced judges self importantly declared they were trying to discover new talent, the viewers reminded them that is was just a silly TV show, and voted them in for another week. Simon’s decision to “embrace the craziness” and support Diva Fiver, is as deflating as a politician using your favourite song at their party conference.

The show’s also been accused of racism for putting through two white girls who fluffed their final audition ahead of two black girls who sailed through theirs. I actually think they might have a point. I think in our culture, white people are, in general, are less impressed or surprised by black people who can sing really well. Growing up in Ireland in the eighties, I knew no non whites at all, the only black people I saw were on the tele, and it was only when I got older and moved to London I realised that I subconsciously assumed all black people were brilliant singers. I know that’s ridiculous but on TV, especially American TV, whenever any black person sings they always, always have amazing gospel voices. Part of Amy Whinehouse ,Joss Stones and Duffy’s success is that they’re white girls who sound like black soul singers, but if they were black girls with similar voices, they’d probably just be backing singers.

(You could never really accuse Cheryl of racism, her husband was mixed race and that was definitely not a marriage of convenience to raise profiles and cover up rumours of homosexuality. Also, yes, she may have been convicted for a racist attack on a toilet attendant but that was ages ago. How could she judge anybody on the colour of their skin, after last week, when she was quite clearly orange?)

Endemic racism aside-Why don’t we feel the X Factor this year? The show’s previous trademark theme; the unfortunate wretch with a stunning voice and a tear stained back story, achieving success after a carefully plotted journey has famously been ditched this season. Those themes; the deserving working class achieving success through hard work and determination all had a very New Labour tinge to them. Anybody could make it, if they had the talent.

Now instead of being a likeable underdog Cher, comes across as an auto tuned ASBO .The judges drool over the other most notorious contestant Katie about her uniqueness as if copying Lady Gagaga is any more unique or original than copying Britney Spears. Despite this her shrill, smug entitlement has alienated her form the public. There just doesn’t seem to be much innocence left.

Topping the ratings is the series following the show “Downton Abbey” written by Gosford Park writer and old school Conservative Julian Fellows. The script, about a manor house before the First World War, still controlled by rigid class structures, noble obliges, and the each knowing their place is New Conservative philosophy in fancy dress. The privileged Lord of the Estate is a sympathetic, well intentioned man, willing to sacrifice his on daughter’s inheritance to ensure the survival of not only his manor but the way of life he feels responsible for. He’s David Cameron in breeches. As the government, decimates the welfare state, cuts child welfare for the top earners and raises university fees, maybe we just aren’t believing in the X Factor fairy story anymore? The X factor fairground might finally be closing down.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

For Blake, the man that changed my life forever...

Most people boast about being a good judge of character, a minority admit to being bad, I on the other hand have absolutely no judgment at all. It is my one social blind spot; a part of my personality I genuinely wish I could outsource. I know you're supposed to use wisdom, experience,morals, and then decide if you like some one or not. With me if someone is nice to me- I like them, that’s it,I've nothing more technical to go on. I could meet a mass murderer, a genocidal maniac, James Corden and if they’re nice to me; I’m screwed.

Sometimes, worried that my blanket acceptance of everyone has downgraded my opinion to worthless, I’ll decide completely arbitrarily to dislike someone. Almost instantaneously, that person will be nice to me; I’ll feel horrible and be back to square one. Lately I’ve considered just given up having opinions altogether.

When I was younger, added to this personality blindness,was the pressure of having to make absolutely everybody I met like me. The thought of choosing not to get on with someone, of deciding for myself instead of reacting to some one else’s behavior was alien and weird. My plan was to be friends with absolutely everyone, and hope for the best.

These were the life skills I was taking with me on my new life abroad.My homesickness in Italy had been as unexpected as it was pathetic. The first few days were a puffy eyed flurry of abruptly left rooms, locked toilet doors and sobbing, hiccupped nightly phone calls home that even my parents were beginning to find embarrassing. I’d become everything I’d sneered at; the girl who always had to go home from slumber parties early because she missed her Mam, the plastic Paddy who’d already found the nearest Irish pub.

For a person who had been running away from the age of four it was not what I was expecting. In my town I’d never felt like I’d fitted in, truly belonged; I always felt odd. When school friends described me affectionately as “mad” it was like nails on a blackboard- I wasn’t trying to be eccentric, I just wanted to be normal. So why was I missing so keenly a life I couldn’t wait to leave? The minute I landed in Italy, my old life suddenly seemed a haven of contentment, security and belonging. I didn’t know then how much easier it is to leave behind something you had than it is to finally give up on something that was never really there. Why else are bad relationships so much harder to let go of then the good ones? Everything felt horrible, floaty and transitory. I felt that at any minute a gust of wind would run through me and blow me away.

Convinced everything had been a massive mistake, I decided to just ride it out till I could go home, move back with my parents and forget it had ever happened.

Confident that it was a temporary holiday before teacher training I finally began to relax. Slowly I began to see some upsides to living in a medieval town in Italy for eleven weeks. Apart from my actual classes, there was the massive 19th century apartment, I was sharing with the other girls, a stone balcony that overlooked a square with a church and fountain. There was the fruit and veg market, that if I got up in time I could go to in the morning before class. I now knew that Italians wore black to weddings, that their supermarkets had aisles devoted just to pasta and that you can actually drink water out of the town fountains. These were all secrets, keyholes into a life I should never have known about. The beautiful medieval town felt like the set of Romeo and Juilet, that I was free to explore. I was also slowly making friends with the people in my class; French Canadians, an actress from New York and Finnish girls so beautiful, they made you think racial superiority had a point. I sat in the kitchen with them in the morning, sleepily waiting for the coffee to boil, with the sound of church bells ringing in the distance. For the first time in my life I wasn’t someone’s friend, or someone’s daughter, I was me. All the things I’d worried about back home, though present, felt far away like the sea.

It was then that a person walked into my life, a late arrival on the course, a lanky Australian ambling into the class and straight into my life. Blake, Blake, I will never forget you. Finally I knew I was having my first trembling grown up independent opinion about someone. I knew in an instant, that although you were fine with me , I absolutely hated you.

Was it during our very first conversation when I patiently listened to your theory that 9/11 was a cover up, that I felt the first shiver of something starting? Was it when I hesitatingly disagreed and the sunlight hit the side of your face as you sadly shook your head and said you were just passing out seeds of knowledge? Maybe it was the tone in your voice when explained you were inspired to become a street performer because you liked connecting with people on the street and messing with their heads? Or when you described your road to Damascus experienced happened at an Alanis Mourissette concert? Or the cute way you started speaking in weird pigeon English when you were around Spanish people? I don’t know when exactly it happened but I knew for the first time in my life, without friends to check, sisters to confer, I was experiencing my first definite opinion about someone-He was a bloody idiot.

I felt like the child in the Emperors New clothes.Obviously I’d disliked people before but I’d never voiced it- what if I was wrong? But here in Italy- on my own-what did I have to loose? So I didn’t try to be friends with him, but I didn’t avoid him either and if he did anything to annoy me, I’d tell him; the sky didn’t collapse, the earth didn’t open and people didn’t hate me for being so horrible.

They actually began to agree. These cool, bohemian people from as far away as French Canada listened to my opinion.Slowly but surely my belief that he was an absolute moron, changed from a theory into an empirical fact. Class by class, as he pissed others off and people got to know him better, my protestations were proved to be true, by week two; no one was talking to him, by week three he had left under a cloud. I had a won. I hadn’t bullied him out, I just hadn’t been “nice” and it was ok.

The night the course finally ended I was crying again. This time I didn’t want to leave; pledging to always stay in touch, to be friends forever. Part of me loved the drama of it all, the same thrill I secretly get from freakishly bad weather,

funerals and unexpected celebrity deaths the feeling that normal service has been temporarily interrupted.I actually started challenging myself to see how many of my new friends I could make cry. I dropped in words bombs like acceptance, belonging,true friendship, and they’d start sobbing. I’d wail too and the line between sentimental dramatics and heartfelt truths got blurred.

I decided that if I had friends that cared about me, maybe I could put off giving up, caving in and going home for a little while longer. Most of them lived in Spain so I decided that I’d just move there next. No, I didn’t speak Spanish, but knew, at least,I could now spot a prick in at least one language.

Monday, 27 September 2010

A Dangerous Mind

For some teaching is a vocation, for others a reluctant fallback, for more, like me, an absolute mistake. Fresh from university, after four years of sleeping in, living off Angel Delight and watching “Sunset Beach” I fancied the idea of being a grown up for a while. Regular money, soup for lunch, step aerobics two times a week and drinks on Friday, I would be normal, completely normal. I would wear fake tan, shop at French Connection and buy a proper handbag; after twenty two years of being the weird one, I would no longer be the freak, I would be the smug dull one, stand back, stand back: nothing to see here...

I knew straight away that I was going to be an awesome teacher, I was the English one after all and they were always the best. I’d inspire, change lives and just when all the students had fallen in love with me, go off to better things. Yes, I had no “qualifications” but I had seen “Dead Poets Society” loads of times.

I was also completely in charge of the entire English curriculum. Completely unmonitored, I just picked anything I’d studied at school and still had the notes for. I later found out that at least one play I had made the class study wasn’t actually on the syllabus. I was also at that time slightly obsessed with WW1 so any opportunity I got to shoehorn a bit of Wilfred Owen in was not missed. We studied the poetry, the novels, every now and then the students wandered in to find a WW1 fact of the day on the blackboard and as a treat at the end of term, we watched “Blackadder Goes Fourth, final episode. It was when a student genuinely asked me, if in comparison, Word War II was “not that much of a big deal” that I began to worry if I had gone too far.

I quickly learned that when setting essays for teenagers it is imperative that you make the titles as bland and boring as possible. Any opportunity a teenager gets to write about parents that don’t understand, depression, self harm; they will. If in doubt, all stories will end with someone killing themselves. After having to carefully correct the spelling and grammar of a student’s true account of her traumatic teenage pregnancy, my essay titles quickly changed from the ambitious “What people don’t know about me” to “The summer holiday where everything went really well”.

I really tried. I organised theatre visits, lit incense sticks, burnt candles, played classical music. I did everything, save lesson plans and organise a coherent course structure that a teacher could but instead of looking up to grateful faces, impressed by the winsome hippy that was fighting the man on their behalf, all my charges wanted to talk about was Max Power magazines, Eninem or The Fast and the Furious. A student once tore up a page from their book and ate it in front of me. It was almost as if they didn’t get how cool I was. I let them cheat in exams for god’s sake?!”

Pretty soon my classes were beginning to get a bit Lord of the Fly-ey. Little did I know that those months screaming at people to be quiet, trying desperately to be listened to, liked, respected even were the best training for stand up I could wish for, but much like those brave boys at the Somme I was fighting a futile battle. By the second term I was beginning to wonder if I would be allowed a drinks cabinet in my classroom. Then I started fancying my sixth year students.

Oh Declan, mumbling, shy Declan. I didn’t mark your girlfriend’s homework down out of unacknowledged jealousy but I’m sorry for thinking about it. I’m sorry for the time I confiscated your mobile and was so tempted to root through the messages I had to give it back to you. Did I let you get away with not doing your homework? Yes. Did I imagine meeting you again years later when our five year age gap wouldn’t matter, and if anything me being your former teacher would be a great conversation starter- maybe. Living in the same small town as your students is hard for the most balanced of people, for me- I was a ticking Take a Break Time bomb.

Which was more skin crawlingly embarrassing? The Saturday night I lurched into Declan pissed at the town’s only nightclub and spent the entire night hugging and telling him how great he was? Or his Englsih class I had to teach the Monday afternoon class afterwards, still hungover, where the kind hearted wink he gave me signaled that not only was I not going to be the but of every jokes for the rest of the year, I wasn’t going to be the lead story in any tabloid papers either.I was twenty two but I suddenly felt like a predatory, sleazy old woman. In a weekend I’d gone from being Robin Williams to Sherrie Hewson.

By the end of the final term, my year of not living dangerously was coming to an end.

“One year back at university and with your qualification you’d have a job for life”, my parents urged, “Think of the summer holidays?

I stared into the mirror, at the half a stone I’d put on, the sensible haircut I’d acquired, my orange face glowing back on me and I felt true panic. Teachers, good ones, were supposed to put all their energy into their students, inspire them to fulfill their ambitions, to live their dreams. But I jealously guarded all that for myself-what about my potential, my dreams? How could I have a fall back career when I hadn’t even tried, let alone failed yet?

It became obvious I wasn’t up to it, the afternoon I had to leave an exam I was supervising because I got “a fit of the giggles”. Gasping outside the hall, I told the deputy head, I had to leave as I couldn’t stop laughing. I was really saying, I don’t want to be a grown up yet, I still want to be one of the kids, please don’t ask me back next year. There’s a divide you step over walking into that staff room. A sensible world where homework has a point, discipline a reason and teachers just want to help. It’s a small step for man, but a leap too far for Gráinne Maguire.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Gráinne's Mental InHouse Inventry- Day 4 (ish)

I quickly decided the only way to get through the two month Comedia Dell’Arte course I had accidentally enrolled in was to Audrey Hepburn it. Much like my heroine in “Sabrina” I would spend my time in Italy improving myself. I’d survive on fruit and nibbled croissants, drink two litres of water every day and spend my weekends visiting art galleries and jazz bars at night. I would return to my home town, a chicer, thinner and more glamorous version of myself. People would say “Gráinne, you’ve changed- you’re so different” and I’d say “Oh I’m sorry, could you repeat that? My brain thinks in Italian now”.

The classes themselves were my first challenge; Audrey had it easy. All she had to do was delicately make soufflés in Parisian cookery classes; I had to perform medieval comedy. Have you ever tried to make people laugh doing stuff you don’t find remotely amusing at all? Only the cast of “My Family” know my pain. The funniest thing you can do in Commedia is pretend you have found a flea in your hair and then pretend to eat that flea. The Mediterranean students buckled with mirth, the Canadians and Americans smiled slightly sycophantically and I like a nervous gangster with Joe Pescie shooting bullets at my feet, just kept going.

By week two even flea eating was beginning to get old. I finally found myself onstage on my own and I had depleted all the insects, in every part of my body. It was crunch time, I had to just stop messing about, stop slagging off Italian comedy and actually use this opportunity to stretch a new muscle, learn a new skill, take a chance and force myself to find my own unique voice.

“Drink! Girls!Feck! Arse!”

Now I was a joke thief. I was actually ripping off Father Ted. The fruit of my heroes’ years of hard work, the worst comedy crime, the shame, the poker hot shame... But I didn’t see looks of disgust and vanishing respect in the eyes of my expectant audience, I saw laughter and love and acceptance…because they had never seen Father Ted had they? They were all bloody foreigners; they thought I was making this fantastic grotesque old man character up myself. That simmering shame hit boiling point and evaporated into great gusts of giddy exhilaration…

“Girls! Lovely girls! Hairy Japanese Basterds”

More laughter, more love, more respect. I didn’t feel bad, I felt like an evil genius. Take that skinny, bendy, Spanish girls with olive skin, I was hilarious. By the end of the week my catch phrases were the stuff of legends. In sketches they bounced off the walls and ricocheted around the room; I’d have a cunning plan, I couldn’t beeeleive it! It suited me sir!

The time I improvised leaning against a bar and falling through the opened counter- I was nearly carried out on their shoulders! I felt like a comedy version of George McFly, but I was not just cheating and nicking other peoples jokes for fleeting popularity, I was making an important cultural point. Nowadays humour is just funnier than medieval folk theatre. Northern Europeans are wittier than their southern friends. Every time I made an American laugh, thinking that they were enjoying Renaissance comedy in it’s purest form and really they were clapping at something I’d completely nicked from “Absolutely Fabulous” I felt the thrill of victory.

But I had underestimated Italian theatre, I’d come to its homeland, taken the piss and I knew it was only a matter of time before the gods of Harlequin and Il Captiono made their anger felt. So when on the morning of our first acrobatics class our teacher breezily announced that the starting position was a handstand, I thought my karma had arrived. Ignoring my classmates misguided words on encouragement, I explained that the reason I couldn’t do it wasn’t about confidence, it was simply a combination of my body’s complete lack of aerodynamicy and the laws of physics and his old pal gravity. Couldn’t I just start with hedgehog rolls?

“Don’t be silly, you’ll be fine”, my classmates encouraged me. “Are we bothered? Does our faces look bothered?”

“I will fall on my face and injure myself” I explained

But who cares, they reasoned, it’s was just us in the class, a local class for local people.We'll have no trouble here...

So as I leaned against the wall, upside down, my legs supported by two encouraging Spanish girls, my sweaty t-shirt falling over my red perspiring trembling face, exposing my wobbling belly to a cheering class. I really thought OK Medieval Theatre you’ve had your fun, we’re even now. I was wrong. Acrobatics was for only half the course, for the rest we were studying tango. It would be torture and it had nothing to do with fancy footwork.

Now, I’ve always considered myself very lucky to be blessed with low standards and high expectations;in practical terms that means I will pretty much fancy any man, heterosexual or otherwise, that I spend any amount of time with. So by mid course I had massive crushes on every single guy in my class. The tango classes meant not only did my twenty two year old self have to get breath in your face intimate with every male on the course but I had to do all the grinding, all the staring in their eyes sexiness with deadly seriousness and Not. Laugh. Once. It was like a sexual confidence form of “Operation”, a Chinese water torture; my personal Room 101. Every class I’d almost combust with nervous, panicked hysterical embarrassment. My inability to keep a straight face was at first few endearing in a Baby from Dirty Dancing kind of way, but it quickly soured to annoying, curdled to irratating and set into just plain weird. The Mediterranean girls could not understand why I found it all so impossible, “Just be sexy” they reassured me, which was like asking a blind person if they ever tried just really squinting their eyes.

The final straw was when our teacher decided to sepreate the sexes and as the music played the women were to lock eyes with a man of their choosing, walk sexily across the room and claim their partner with a seductive dance. As my Latin sisters shimmied past me, I finally cracked and fled to the toilets. Hunched over the wash basin I repeated to myself” Relax, you’re Irish, we have good personalities, we don’t need to be sexy” until I could breath again. I never went back.

Being Audrey was proving harder than it looks. At weekends I’d pop on my fifties skirt, tie my shirt coquettishly at my waist and in my ballet flats wander around the old town centre. I’d sip the coffee in the square, I’d read novels late night in the cafes and I’d wander round ruins carrying bunches of flowers. But I didn’t feel winsome, carefree and young, I felt bored, empty and lonely. I wanted to go back to my home town changed but hadn’t I come all this way to escape from the place- why was I rushing to go back? But unless I returned how could I know I was changing, improving, getting better? If there was no one there to watch my transformation and tell you it was happening, how could you know it was real? What was the point? As I sipped my coffee I realised, that if I saw myself from the outside in, I’d be so envious and assume my life was perfect, like Audrey Hepburn’s in fact. The thought made my head spin and I felt like I was floating out into space.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Gráinne's Mental InHouse Inventry- Day 3

Randomly moving to a new country on the spur of the moment always seemed to me an incredibly glamorous idea. One of my favourite films ever is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I became obsessed with it one school summer holiday and watched it every single day for a month. Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly flits about New York, sleeping with men in a manner that makes promiscuity seem the most elegant and endearing of lifestyle choices. Again the main point of her being an exploited, lonely call girl completely escaped my attention, to me she was like “Benji-The World’s Littlest Hobo”, only with better cocktail dresses.

The free spirited girl is my absolute favourite movie cliché; wafting in with a sexy fringed goofy smile, drinking too much, gingerly eating with her fingers and then,just when the male lead has dumped his boring nine to five girlfriend, buggering off again.

My first attempt at being elegantly waifish wasn’t an entire success. I’d taken it into my head to teach in Korea but failed the interview when I thought it’s be hilarious to say my main qualification for the job was having seen MASH loads of times. I’d just finished university and was still convinced I was an undiscovered acting genius. That was the main reason I went to that university in the first place; to join their drama society. I made a fantastic first impression too, swaggering in like young Orson Welles, casually dropping on the auditors desk an outline for my one woman production of “Withnail and I”; Rushmore had nothing on me. My Waterloo was that week’s drama society fresher’s party when, in a fit of nerves, insecurity and cheap vodka, I got heroically pissed, made a move on the auditor and fell asleep behind a piano.

It was so confusing. In films when the carefree girl gets drunk, if anything she gets more adorable, but to the flinty fresher’s of Dramsoc I was now socially dead. In my slobbering needy first week mess, they’d seen their own worst fears externalised and projected. If I was the uncool, eager to please, gauche newbie it couldn’t, by deduction, be them. If I had only known to swagger in the next day with a rueful smile and a devil may care wink it would all have been forgotton, but I had the nimble social skills of an articulated truck. Humiliated, I spent the next three years avoiding the place, having panic attacks just walking by their offices, a strange case of being too dramatic to do any actual drama. So on graduation I signed myself up for a theatre evening class determined to make up for lost time.

But in a surprise twist, instead of feeling the warm glow of a creative homecoming, I found the drama classes tedious and boring. There was all this talk of text analysis, voice training and movement. Movement? Who frigging cares, I move everyday, consider it done- when do I get to pretend to be a drug addict? When the other students talked eager eyed about working with new playwrights, improvising or Commedia De’ll Arte I could barely keep my eyes open. Commedia Dell’Arte, if you’re not aware and why should you, is a hilarious form of medieval Italian theatre. Except it’s not, it’s Benny Hill in period costume, Shakespeare with just the comedy, full of men overacting, women pretending to be shephards and the audience pretending to find the whole thing hilarious. I hated it and anybody who knows me,and knows that pretending to be a medieval shepherd girl is pretty much my idea of the best thing ever; will appreciate what a damning indictment that is.

Then it dawned on me, maybe I didn’t want to immerse myself in parts, become different people, disappear into a role; maybe I just really wanted to show off. I didn’t want to play some frustrated teenager in a housing estate, I wanted to play a Queen that discovers a terrible secret and then dies for her country. I was already so good at the dying; my Barbie’s always had disfiguring illnesses and tragically passed away mourned by all, joined by a struggling to cope Ken in a suicide pact days later. Turns out there was more to acting than that. Boringness, Brecht and Bloody Breathing exercises….

So after an entire class discussing what a poem might be about. (God. Give. Me. Strength.) I happened upon a notice advertising a comedy acting course in Italy. Now that, I thought, is something I am interested in, prat falls, hitting people with sticks, maybe learning how to do that Charlie Chaplin hop skippy heel clicky thing! I didn’t need to know anymore, I was doing it, I was finally off to see the world, my Huckleberry friend and there was such a lot of world to see…

Two months, one handed in job notice and a one way flight to Italy later, I found myself in a dusty drill hall in central Italy. Fava, our teacher was explaining what we’d be studying over the next three months. In Italian. That’s sweet, I thought, maybe I could learn a bit of that while I’m here, mentally logging off till the English bit came, Oh, he’s talking in Spanish now. Maybe I could learn a bit of that too.... Finally the English bit came.

“And also-Welcome, our British friends”

Was that it? He’s been speaking in Italian for a bloody hour? Then a quick inventory of the crowded class revealed that amongst the Italians, Spanish and French Canadians, there was only three other English native speakers, glistening like a rubies in the rough, and I was pretty sure I had already fallen out with most of them already. Faltering, I turned to the Italian girl beside me and whispered how excited I was to be studying comedy acting. She looked confused, I explained again slower with added mimes.

“You know- comic acting...we’re studying falling about… like in the black and white comedies...Charlie Chaplin?”

“Comic acting yes, I suppose…but in Italian we call it Commedia Dell’Arte. Didn’t you read the course booklet?”

Holy shit. I had time for a quick internal Moe from The Simpsons hands to face Waah, and it was time to start the breathing exercises.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Gráinne's Mental InHouse Inventry- Day 2

The major lesson I’m learning this month is that when the manure hits the air con you can go one of two ways: Feel sorry for yourself and go bad luck is my avatar, stop washing your hair depressed or camp. Very Camp. This month I chose the later. I was not down and out. I was wronged and fabulous. Less Little Mo, more Scarlett freaking O’ Hara.

Post Edinburgh Festival the plan was to take September off. I was back to Ireland for the month to gently convalesce, like Robert Downey Jr at the end of “Chaplin” but instead of staring dreamily over a lake in Geneva, wrapped in a tartan blanket with my nineteen year old child bride, I’d be watching re runs of America’s Next Top model and eating toast. That was the plan.

Then I checked my bank balance and it politely suggested otherwise. It didn’t give me my balance as much as start laughing at me. Actual chortles. Like “Beadles About” guest starring Stephen Hawking. Personally I miss the days when your ATM just told you how many pounds you had in your financial pigeon hole. Will somebody please explain to me slowly, once and for all, the difference between your “cleared balance”, your “available balance”, and your “I hate to break it to you but that’s your balance” balance? I’d prefer if they just said “Listen we’ve rattled your piggy bank and it doesn’t sound good”. I also find their offer of advice slips patronizing. Banks offering to give me advice? That’s like Kate Moss offering parenting tips. Thanks Banks but why don’t you figure out how to stop bankrupting the country first, yeh? Then get back to me. And even then, only offer me useful advice like; stop buying a Starbucks every morning; it does not make your life more glamorous, or apply for that PGCE or go back to your natural hair colour for god’s sake.

Anyway, it became swiftly obvious that I couldn’t just slink home for a spell of reconnecting with my Celtic Soul; I needed to start temping. Stat. I couldn’t even fall back on my old reliable medical trials; selling your body but not in a sexy way. Prostitution for people who are rubbish in bed. Like a spa but with more unnecessary surgical procedures. Yeah, they’d be tough but I was up for it, Scarlett O Hara had to fight off Yankee Carpet baggers, I could handle a week of feeling permanently carsick. I’ve done two already, one for sleeping pills which convinced my mother I was going to turn into Elvis Presley and another for a muscle relaxant. Pah, I thought, my muscles are relaxed already. It was horrible. I had to stay in the unit for a week and swiftly turned into the ward’s Jack Nicholson figure; complaining, causing trouble, playing mind games with the nurses; it started with hiding unwanted food in my dressing gown pockets and ended just before I brought in the prostitutes. (On a positive note, I now know I could definetly handle prison)
But there were no trials and I had rented my room out to a stranger on Gumtree till October- Whither now Scarlett?

My genius plan was just to quietly move back into my flat, sleep on the couch and hope none of my flatmates would notice or mind. How hard could it be? Yes, I’d have no key and would only be able to leave the flat when I knew they were in and yes they were never ever in, but how much did I leave the flat anyway? I had eggs in the fridge and bread. Water in the taps. My job didn’t start for another week. I could bunker in…

By day one I was feeling just a bit weird. By day two I was so spooked and paranoid I hid in the bathroom when my flatmates came home. By day three I had gone Grey Gardens, Howard Hughes, what day is it bat crazy. Yes, I was still Judy Garland fabulous but I was heading into the couldn’t pay her bills, threatening to throw herself out the hotel window, do you want to be known as the place where Dorothy died part of her TV movie and I had a whole month to go.
It was around this time I had a phone call from a friend asking if I wanted to do a gig that evening. “No can do”, I monotonely explained, egg yolk flaking around my mouth, lying on my back on my living room floor in my dressing gown “I don’t leave the house anymore. Besides it’s five o’ clock and I’ve just found an old bottle of Absinthe, so my weekend’s full now”. There was a long silence and then my American friend quietly suggested I stay with her for a bit.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Gráinne's Mental InHouse Inventry- Day 1

I’ve always been a great believer in risks. Taking a chance, living for the moment, reaching for the bloody stars, whatever S Club 7 told me to do- I did. You’re supposed to live every day like it’s your last, it’s what every single quote of the day, Disney film and house anthem has been telling me to do for the past twenty years...
Well damn it, I take risks, I’ve taken risks, the risks are gone, all of them. I am officially out of risks. I couldn’t even lend you one if you popped around and asked nicely. And what do I have to show for it? A great bloody big what the hell am I doing soufflé, seasoned with a gaping bank account and a dollop of full fat uncertainty.

My greatest fear as a child was mediocrity. I know that sounds very dramatic and self obsessed but you underestimate how painfully seriously I took myself as a young’n. If you had asked me what my favourite film was I’d have looked you in the eyes and said “Taxi Driver”. I would have been lying, it was “Mermaids”. However if you had asked me what my greatest fear was I’d have answered “That I’ll end up like Salieri. Rival of Mozart. Driven mad my jealousy, frustrated ambition, the knowledge of my own mediocrity and paucity of talent. An also ran, a nearly, a just not quite” Sadly that would not have been a lie. “Amadeus”, the film about the genius composer and his frenemy Salieri, freaked me out, haunted me and I swore I would never be ordinary, never accept the easy option, the H&M version of the designer original ,with all the heart stopping sincerity only a twelve year old girl can muster.

His penniless death in a pauper’s grave passed slightly over my head but then I have a habit of missing the points of things. I also thought Wham’s Last Christmas was about an organ transplant that had gone wrong (In my defence it was released around the same time Nanny finally got her new kidney so talk of rejected body parts were terms flying about our house at the time)

I decided there and then it was better to risk everything in the pursuit of greatness than merely exist in the hope of adequacy. Like that quote? Thanks, I made that up when I was fifteen. Yes, I was that annoying. Imagine how irratating English teachers must have found me? The thing is I have been making all my adult decisions based on this young girl’s philosophy.

Now I’m beginning to wonder how that’s working out for me and think it’s time for a bit of life motto stock taking, some personal philosophy in house enquiry. This has been inspired by the recent Edinburgh Festival where I took my first hour show up. I had a great time there, it was brilliant but like most short term goals; love affairs, children, fake nails, it was a great way of avoiding reality. As a comic you’re encouraged to give your first show absolutely everything; finiacally, emotionally and mentally and rise or fall like a Byronic hero in the attempt. This was my moment, the one that Martine McCutchen had sung about during her brief pop career, the one Leona Lewis had waited for, the one Whitney Houston had begged for during the 1988 Special Olympics. All the girls were on my side, warbling and rooting for me, to screw my courage into a ball and like a more confident Alfred J. Prufrock dare! The entire history of popular culture and English literature where telling me I was doing exactly the right thing putting all my money, quitting my job, subletting my flat into my show. And did I gloriously fail or heroically succeed? Or did I just have a modestly successful first year in Edinburgh, and find myself afterwards slightly further along my comedy road but I still not quite on the M1?

Did I think that would be the outcome? Yes…and well, you never know do you…. Who knows what happens? Edinburgh is a lottery, Hollywood for ugly people… Chances are something would just happen, if I was brave, worked hard enough and believed. Felt the fear, the fear of unemployment, financial meltdown and homelessness and did it anyway. Things always just happen. So that’s why I decided to rent my room out for not just the entire month of August but September as well. I didn’t need somewhere to stay did I? I mean to live? You know to have all my bloody possessions in one place at the same time? What like loser Salieri would do? I’ll spend my rent money on flyers thanks. Who needs to follow suburban squares restricted by their bourgeois principles? Losers. I’m a bohemian... I didn’t need a job either. It’ll be fine hand that notice in...

So here I am. Post living the Edinburgh dream, sleeping in friend’s spare room for the month, slacking at an £8.50 temp job, praying inspectors don’t jump on my bendy bus and absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life. Literally, no clue. So I’ve decided to document my commitment to bohemian risk taking. My refusal to have a fall back plan. The shiver that runs through my spine every time a job in teaching is mentioned. The smug feeling I get rooting through old class mates face book photos. Ha, look at those losers with their rewarding day jobs, houses and families living nearby! I’d be played by Angelina Jolie in a movie of my life. I just wonder how she’d play the scene where hungover in the supermarket, hovering over the reduced counter in her pyjamas, young couples with babies doing their weekly shop making her soul sob?

I‘m going to look back at all the times I could have done the sensible thing and self righteously didn’t. I know what you’re thinking. She’ll decide that of course taking the risks always pays off, ruefully not regrette a rien and Keane will start playing in the background. It’s always like that isn’t it? Yes, well once, after reading a Henry Miller novel, I insisted on sleeping on a park bench. My bag got stolen. So let’s not go making any assumptions shall we?

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Not Goodbye but Au Revoir shitheads!

If the marriage of Cheryl and Ashley has taught us anything, apart from that even the most dramatic splits get tedious if dragged out long enough, it’s that all things must come to an end, and much like their relationship and the career of Lindsey Lohan this gorgeous column is facing it’s final curtain, or at least taking a break until after Edinburgh.

What a year and a half? What a privilege! We’re wandered together you and I, like Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin through The Hundred Acre Wood of the Celebrity Unwell; break ups, overdoses and personal disaster, together we’ve listened, learned and mainly laughed at them all.

But then everybody is replaceable. Much as I’d like to imagine you staring at the bottom of a whiskey tumbler, sleeping pills in one hand, old photo in the other like Rita Sullivan who’s just found out that Alan Bradley was back.

But let’s be honest, pretty soon there’ll be another celebrity journalist with an unhealthy interest in Suri Cruise to win over your shallow fickle swinging bricks and I’ll be yesterday’s Heat front cover. Think of poor Christina Aguilera, taking time out from wearing arseless chaps to have baby; she probably thought her job was safe. Sod it she thought, I can actually sing and Britney is turning into Syd Barret in a push up bra, I’ll have another mojito thanks. Then she finally returns to work to find Lady GaGa, like the replacement temp from hell, writhing around her corner desk, her plants un watered, her files completely rearranged and her own career suddenly irrelevant.

Oh Christina the shame! You didn’t hoof your way through Disney Club with Britters claiming Mickey Mouse was talking to her to be replaced by a posh kid from New York City. It’s almost as if people have forgotten how dirty, sorry dirrrty you were! We watched her grow from wannabe in a bottle, to I’ve been tangoed bad black hair dye washing isn’t sexy , to her final transformation into a Marilyn Monroe drag queen. Constant reinvention being the requisite for all self respecting popstars nowadays; honestly Madonna has a lot to answer for.

Throughout all her personas there was always something flintily unlikeable about the girl. Yes she had a voice that could knock down buildings but she never seemed like the type of girl who’d hold back your hair if you were vomiting, more like the one who’d spiked your drink in the first place. She looked like she’d sell her own granny for a lead vocal whereas Lady Gaga acts like she’d stab her own mother for the sheer theatricality. Oh Christina, we’ve tasted the real thing now and compared to the perfect full flavoured pop madness of Gaga, you remind us of the flat coke dodgy landlords try to get away with serving .

Though it’s not Gaga I worry about, or even Christina, it’s the little ones I lose sleep over-like wee Lee Ryan from Blue. That’s why I’ve started a new charity; Lee Aid. Do you know for just three pound a month you can sponsor somebody to follow the ex Blue star around and check everything that comes out of his mouth. For five pound you get to be that person.

Poor old Lee, like Father Dougal with a permanent erection, the sudden boom in communication hasn’t helped him. The singer has a veritable blazing squad of illegitimate children, cheerfully divulges threesomes with fellow band members, and when trying to crack America responded to the recent terrorist attacks with the now legendary “"Who gives a f**k about New York when elephants are being killed".

He has really met his Waterloo in the form of Twitter. Maybe the site should be forced to add a security question “Are you Lee Ryan formerly from Blue” and like clicking that you are indeed under 18 for other websites, if you click yes, you’re immediately directed to a Disney website.

Lee has been a busy boy. He’s used the website to call various members of the public pig faces, threaten others with violence and attempt to sell a film script to Tom Cruise. He quite sweetly signed the message LEE RYAN!!! X. AS if to reassure Tom, that his eyes weren’t deceiving him, it was the All Rise star himself.

While Blue's cover of the Elton John song suggested it was “sorry” for me it's “good bye” that is the hardest word. Thank you so much for joining me on my scavenging through the rubbish bins of celebrity gossip. Hopefully we’ll see each other again, and know, much like the crazy characters Jennifer Connolly met in “Labyrinth”, whenever you need me I’ll be there. However, unlike them, you won’t find me creepily looking over your shoulder every time you look in the mirror (which must be getting very annoying for Jennifer by now - move Hoggle I’m trying to put my contacts in!)No, I’ll be at your nearest newsagent or the magazine section of large supermarkets. Rifling through the gossip mags and not paying for any of them.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Somebody please make it all go away.

I’m not usually a bitter person but when I read about Kerry Katona moving into a million pound Brighton mansion I start wondering if I should have ditched my English degree and got married to someone from Westlife instead. Even Jedward is beginning to look like a better option.

The exiled Queen of Iceland has declared war on ex Brian McFadden; branding him a bad father in a recent tabloid interview. Her first husband and father to the younger batch of her brood is currently living in Australia and is a judge on “Australia’s Got Talent” which is like Gordon Brown being a judge on a “Why am I so Adorable?” or David Cameron on “ Britain’s Got Sincerity” or Nick Clegg on “I give it another Week, tops”. Brian has the bittersweet privilege of being the Pete Best of Westlife. He left the band in a flurry of hubris, ready to launch himself as the next Robbie Williams, as if the world hadn’t enough problems, and like an Emmerdale actor earnestly declaring they were off to Hollywood, was never heard of again.

Kerry, now managed by Katie Price’s old management team has been cleaning up her image; out goes the leaching husband and drunken TV appearances and in comes play dates with Peter Andre and washing herself. As a way of setting the story straight, because in this time of economic depression nothing adds more to the folly of the nation, she’s been revealing the sweaty ins and greasy outs of her grubby marriage.

With an honesty that we’re supposed to applaud rather than be physically repulsed by, she describes whole weeks lost to coke and online bingo. Oh, the glamour-forget the golden parties of Old Hollywood; Drinks at the Copacabana, Errol Flynn chasing after underage girls, Joan Crawford beating her kids around the head with wire clothes hangers; we have the image of Kerry alone in a darkened bedroom, the blue light of the monitor flickering over her tear swollen, kebab encrusted face, googling herself and sobbing.

It’s the kids I’m happiest for. Whereas before, they lived with an attention seeking coke child, now they have a Mum selling her most sordid secrets for cash. Days left alone in front of the telly while Mum rustled about upstairs replaced by nights in alone as she attends parties to prove how she’s turned her life around. So every trip to the zoo will now be accompanied a camera crew to prove what a great Mother she is? At least they’re getting outside the house.

I honestly think I preferred her when she looked like a cabbage patch kid on crystal meth, at least there was an honesty to it. The sanctimonious, shrill confidence that if you bleat loudly enough about your mistakes you are not only automatically entitled to forgiveness, but should in some way be respected for it, is a particularly irritating sound.

Speaking of dodgy parent’s, Michael Douglas is rueing a few of his life choices after his son Cameron narrowly escaped a lengthy year jail term for drug dealing. The youngest member of the acting dynasty fell into drugs at thirteen and after his family refused to fund his habit, the thirty one year old began drug dealing. I don’t know what would be more confusing, your Dad choosing “A Chorus Line” over spending time with you or waking up to discover that Catherine Zeta Jones in your new Mum.

However bad Michael might be feeling compared to Jack Tweedy he is positively Christ like. Tweedy is in court at the moment accused of raping a teenage girl he picked up at a nightclub. The professional widow has embraced the Lidl fame left to him by his late wife Jade Goody.

A kingdom of easily impressed young girls, drugs, crazy parties and arrogant recklessness was his for the tasting. Who can blame him for living the MTV dream; easy up for it woman, blinging big cars and being the King of every Wag wanabee infested nightclub this side of Essex? Even if the pimpled reality is a drunk terrified teenager allegedly raped in the toilets of a rented suburban house in the tired early hours of the morning,

The pictures of Tweedy and his co accused friend, entering and leaving the court are a stomach churning study in smugness. How can we be blamed for anything they seem to whine; look how expensive my sunglasses are? Chill out! Fame has a magnifying affect on the personality, like very old age, getting drunk or the mumblings first thing in the morning, it strips away to the your true personality. When Jade Goody first found fame, she seemed truly grateful, like a child who had just been adopted. Unfortunately not all personalities bear up to such close scrutiny.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Reality is overrated

It must be great being a celeb; free stuff, being able to get away with murder, figuratively and literally and best of all, completely unsolicited advice from other famous people you’ve never met. I can’t count the amount of times in moments of difficulty; I wished I was important enough for Nikki from Big Brother to mention me her weekly column. How reassuring it must be for Sandra Bullock or Nicole Kidman, as they flick through the glossies under a dryer at the hairdressers, to know that at least Alex Curran cares and is well gutted about their recent problems.

Thankfully, with the wonders of modern networking sites, celebs are no longer limited to gossip periodicals to address their nation. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, a direct line to the masses has been installed for the entire showbiz family. Demi Moore can castigate Kim Kardashian for her use of the term “pimping”, Kirstie Alley can dispense diet advice, Perez Hilton can insult everyone, while the rest of us, their digital privy council, can follow their tweets, hung over at work and trying to look like we’re busy. The general rule of thumb is you can say whatever you like as long as you put LOL at the end.

Twitter is the ultimate form of expression for Generation Text; take the most intimate observations and in jokes usually reserved for those nearest and dearest and share them with the entire online planet. Perfect for an age bracket that only feels alive if they’ve been retweeted. We have evolved from sealed envelopes to town criers, desperate to let entire digital universe know we’ve just had a hob nob.

So a perfect platform for attention seeking and crow barred jokes, but completely ruined when some get carried away and start over sharing.( I’m lying of course, over sharing is when Twitter truly catches the light). Jim Carrey recently used his twitter account to announce the end of his seven year relationship with Jenny McCarthy and give his thoughts on the Tiger Woods saga. Defending the golf star, he argued that the sportsman had effectively sold his childhood to please his demanding Dad and that his wife must have known about his infidelity and was willing to accept it, for the financial rewards of being the wife of the world’s number one golf star.

Tiger Woods has been in a few emotional sand bunkers of late. Not only did he loose the American Masters after a distracted performance but the winner Phil Mickelson, dedicated the victory to his devoted cancer stricken wife. Despite struggling through treatment, she made a romantic, unexpected appearance to be by her husband’s side. Would you like more salt for your wounds Tiger? Yes, just in case you were wondering, the universe is having a massive laugh at your expense. The institution of marriage has taken a bashing of late: the Coles, Tiger’s shenanigans, Katie and Alex, the world of celeb seems determined to make the idea of long term commitment look as ridiculous as possible.

It was only a matter of time before the great Earth Mother of Matrimony began to let her wrath be felt and rumbling up like an avenging Boudicca ready to protect her turf, Elizabeth Taylor is preparing to walk down the aisle again. Considering she’s now confined to a wheel chair and most people vaguely thought she was already dead, you know she’s really pissed. Make no mistake, she loves getting married; she’s done it eight times, which is two ahead of Henry VIII. Her starter marriage was to a Hilton, her third husband died in a plane crash, she stole another off Debbie Reynolds, married Richard Burton twice, a US senator, a construction worker, had a diamond named after her, won two Oscars and then spent most of the nineties hanging around with Michael Jackson. She makes Lady Gaga look as exciting as The Isle of Man.

To balance out, some legends prefer the single life like TV Queen Oprah Winfrey. A recent unofficial book about the chat show star has been published claiming that Oprah has not been entirely honest about her private life. The book claims that Oprah’s early years; the almost mythically grim childhood of deprivation and abuse that inspired so many and made her incredible success all the more life affirming wasn’t quite as horrific as she suggested. It also claims that Steadman, rather than being the perfect partner ready let his lady bask in her success, is nothing but a stooge to hide her work obsessed asexuality. Which begs the question; who bloody cares? If we want the prosaic, blow by blow tedious reality we can just Google Fiona Philip’s twitter page. The public can only bare so much reality and the light is so unflattering, true stars create legends.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Can't Stand You Now.

Who knew Olivia Newton John, that lovely seventies pin up had so much in common with Gail Tilsley? No, she hasn’t been caught scrapping with Eileen Roberts outside Frescos, gorgeous Sandy from Grease has recently found out her ex- boyfriend didn’t drown on a fishing trip three years ago after all but faked his own death. At least Gail had the dignity of her husband actually drowning.

TV makers tracked Patrick McDermott to a small coastal resort in Mexico, where he had been working on tourist boats and living under an assumed name. As he continued to pay into his life insurance policy there was no financial reason for his escape, it seems he travelled to the other side of the world and created an entire new life identity just to get away from the “Let’s get Physical “star.

No matter how many girls’ nights out she goes on, it will take a pretty flattering haircut to get over that little revelation. I would love it if when she finally caught up with him and demanded to know what the flaming gula he’s been up to, he shrugged his shoulder s and said “You know, rocking and rolling and what not”. (For hardcore Grease fans only)

Poor old Lindsay of Lohan has been dumped again recently, this time by an entire fashion house. She was dropped by fashion label Ungaro, before Paris fashion week, after her first and now only collection as the house’s creative director received unanimously awful reviews. Her debut collection featuring sequins and nipple tassles was so bad, Emmanuel Ungaro himself , who no longer owns the fashion label, publically declared it a disaster.

Her recent behaviour has been so rambling, at one stage visiting three nightclubs in Hollywood in one night that even LA police have suggested that she seek help. Caught on the hop by the unexpected deaths of Heath and Brittany, newspapers have prepared obituaries for celebs at risk including Ms. Lohan. The former actress’s career has crumbled to such an extent, she has evolved into a bizarre version of Kenneth Williams. Content to wander onto any chat show that will have her, instead of displaying William’s shrill brittle wit, we’re encouraged to bleakly stare in the grinning face of imminent personal disaster. Maybe she should just go the whole hog and hook up with Pete Doherty.

Kate Moss’s ex has been creating some rock and roll high jinks recently by spitting water on a Five TV presenter. Yes, how hardcore is that? What next? Getting into a fight with Melinda Messenger? Flipping John Barrowman the bird? Crazy horse Doherty is reforming “The Libertines” with Carl Barat, after both their solo careers failed to produce one decent single and will perform at several festivals this summer.

Pete has been kicking off his live shows with appearances at London Fashion Week. Sid Vicious eat your syringe out, nothing says rock and roll anarchy like free clothes. I liked The Libertines music; it’s the too fragile for this world, emo- Christ, prattling on about Albion, fey posing of Pete that I find so irritating and boring. If Pete wants to wander round like a bloated self regarding Victorian chimney sweep, than I wish him well, I just wish he’s written at least one good tune since 2004.

He was recently questioned by police in connection with the fatal overdose of a young director making a documentary about him. Robyn Whitehead , a heiress from the famous Goldsmith family, was twenty seven year old when she was found dead in a flat frequented by Pete and his entourage. When Pete has a bad period, he gets interviews on Newsnight and broadsheets columnists bemoaning the waste of such a delicate talent. The vulnerable young women attracted to his darkly glittering lifestyle end up alone and dead in council flats.

There’s a long history of beautiful blonde waifs falling in with “geniuses” and it’s always the very people that glamorise self destructive behaviour that stay in control. Mick Jagger might have sold the idea of the swinging sixties but it was Marianne Faithfull who ended up living on a wall. Andy Warhol was happy to photograph Edie Sedgwick losing her mind but he ended up one of the most commercially successful artists of all time and she was dead by twenty eight.

Despite all the handwringing and profiles a verb away from being obituaries, Pete is still very much with us. After the arrests, the wandering into court actually in possession of drugs, the crashed cars and blood encrusted gigs, he has become the Queen mother of wasted youth, heading into his thirties, still managing to wake up somewhere safe. As always, when it comes to rock and rolls “lost boys” it’s a case of cherche les dead rich girls.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Rick GAY Martin (no. 1 in the great missed headline opportunities of 2010)

The showbiz world was rocked this week with news that some people actually thought Ricky Martin was straight. Ricky may have been in the closet, but it was a Perspex one, back lit with throbbing disco lights and several naked gyrating oiled men. The Puerto Rican love god, famous in the nineties for his orange face, first found fame with his cross over hits “She Bangs” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. I know this isn’t a “fashionable” thing to say but I genuinely think that Rickster might be the one gay man in history who may have actually, genuinely, just not met the right woman.

From his song lyrics alone the ladies he did try to find love with were a rum crowd indeed. Hanging out in their “leather and lace”? Not drinking the water, making him order French champagne? Apart from the fact since all champagne by its very definition comes from that area of France so “French” is an unnecessary specification, they were all obviously high maintenance minxes indeed. If only he had written a song about a girl who maybe wasn’t living a “vida” quite so “loca” but was happy with a Bacardi Breezer things could have been so different.

While it did take him a long time to open up about his personal life, even denying it outright in interviews, it’s understandable considering his sexuality was a huge part of his appeal. In show business being gay doesn’t necessarily pay. “Will and Grace” the much trumpeted pink sitcom managed to make it to at least series nine without any of their gay characters getting so much a kiss let alone a fumble in the jungle. Hollywood might have made several films with gay characters but there’s as much chance as George W Bush playing a confused cowboy as an openly gay actor. In pop, the gay trajectory is one respectable hit, a few reality TV show appearances and then it’s cameos in “Grease” from there on.

Meanwhile probably wishing that she was a lesbian is everybody’s favourite at least I’m not her; Peaches Geldof. Walking proof money can’t buy happiness, has been dropped by “Ultimo” underwear chain after images surfaced of the blonde naked and looking like an extra from “Trainspotting- the Porno”. It’s not the first time Peaches has been in this kind of trouble. Two years ago an ambulance was called to her central London flat and the model had allegedly to be resuscitated. Peaches claimed at the time that the emergency was caused by fumes from a home hair dye kit. This begs the question, what strength bleach must she have been using and did she know that you’re not supposed to inject it?

What I find troubling about Peaches is that she has been in the public eye for so long; it’s easy to forget she’s only twenty one. She’s been married, divorced, allegedly OD’d, embraced Scientology, will she have to invent an entirely new way of messing up her life to see her through to thirty? She’s like a child prodigy, but instead of being a genius at music or valuing antiques her gift if for really annoying people. An admirable skill but a sad one for an obviously vulnerable waif, who lost a mother to heroin, with a father who seems more interested in saving the world than his own family. It’s not like she’s unique, the grubby tired pictures of the jaded starlet are just the unseen flipside of the London scene smugly gazing from fashion magazine social pages. She just got caught.

Love Peter Andre? Adore Kerry Katona? No, they’re not the opening questions for a mental health worker about to section somebody; they’re the thinking behind OK’s current front page! What would happen if those two every found themselves with the same management team? A burgeoning romance perhaps?

The Faustian publication who have bought their souls to for a handful of Cheesy Wotsits seem intent on pushing the twosome together- my eyes- my eyes! It’s like a stud farm trying to mate their two most mentally unstable horses. In their defence, Katie Price’s new ITV3 show and entire life since the divorce seems to be one big long status update to remind us all HOW HAPPY SHE IS. Not bitter, or still obsessed with her ex! Like the not quite moved on ex girlfriend she seems to be using the entire popular press as her own personal Facebook page, furiously tagging all the best pictures of herself and writing on all their mutual friends walls about how BRILLIANT her new husband is and how she how she has NEVER known love like this. It would even be believable if Alex Reid didn’t look, in every single picture of the pair, like he is very quietly crapping himself.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

He's a phenonemon- that much is true!!!

Next time phenomenon you whinge that you’re being overlooked at work, spare a thought for Sandra Bullock. The actress has spent almost two decades making romantic comedies with Hugh Grant, a fate many wouldn’t even wish that on Ian Huntley.

Picture Sandy in her trailer waiting for her call on set so Hugh Grant can start gurning and spasming into her face again and imagine her ruefully picturing life if the films she was originally due to star in; “Shakespeare in Love” or “Million Dollar Baby” hadn’t collapsed in pre production. As she pratfell into her sixteenth door of the day, perhaps pausing to wipe some of Grant’s drool of her face, the forty five year old would probably pause to wonder if Gwyneth and Hilary had to do this BS anymore.

Recently it seemed as if Cinderella had finally made it to the being taken seriously ball, when she scooped this year’s best actress at the Oscars. Yet less than a week later, what are people talking about? “The Blind Side” a groundbreaking movie where a middle class couple adopt a homeless teenager and he steals their belongings and nicks their car. Don’t be silly, they learn life lessons. No, her husband cheating on her with a tattoo model.

It had to be this film didn’t? Not “Speed 2- Cruise Control” not “Practical Magic”. At least Jennifer had the dignity of losing her man to Angelina, Bullock’s rival looks like a Barbie doll left alone with a small child on a long car trip with a box of felt tips.

The previous Best Actress winner Kate Winslet also enjoyed the cruelty of your private life going tits up when you finally get the career you dreamed of. After being the youngest actress to be nominated six times, last year at last, she got her hands on the Oscar. Looking at her beaming face you would think that after years of being the bridesmaid this woman was finally enjoying her moment centre stage. However it since transpires that the bride’s groom was already beginning to look elsewhere and she has filed for divorce from her film director husband Sam Mendes.

Meanwhile poor old Nadine Coyle, aka the one that sings in Girls Aloud has wised up to the way of the celeb world by using her emaciated figure rather than her voice to kick start her solo career. How sickening must it be to be her at the moment? Attempting to be the break out star of Girls Aloud when you’re up against Cheryl must be like being the best student in your class while everybody’s making a big fuss of the special needs girl because she’s learned how to use a pencil.

Cheryl’s much trumpeted life performance on Radio 1’s Life Lounge was so lifeless and dull that there were reports of people randomly slipping into comas on hearing it. For years Nadine belted her way through the Girls Aloud back catalogue probably thinking just you wait bitches, when this gets stale, I’m out of here before you can say Robbie Williams without the obvious mental damage. Then just at the crucial moment, lil’ Cheryl get’s cheated on and Nadine is old news. She’s probably planning her own racist attack on a toilet attendant while we read this. Nadine has already over come intimidating obstacles, achieving sultriness and glamour with an accent even Irish people struggle with. Before Nadine the city of Derry was best known for Dana, eighties car bombs and confusing English people about whether you put a London before it, so really she should get some sort of grant.

Instead she’s in competition with somebody you legally need to but “brave” “fragile” or “lonely” in front of. Nadine saw a gap and went for “hungry”. And oh how hungry she looks, literally and metaphorically. She recently popped up on a bizarre ITV tribute to the late Stephen Gately that sat uncomfortably between and “An Audience with a Ghost” and a Tony Ferino special. It felt like we were invited to his funeral and out of a painful need to please, the lads tried to disguise their obvious grief with a bit of dancing. I’m sure Stephen did love entertainment but isn’t it a damning verdict on someone to suggest that the best way to sum up and celebrate their life is with a cheap Sunday night special on ITV featuring ad breaks, popstars plugging new albums and Christopher Biggens? It was so disturbing it actually made me fear death in a new way. Not because I suddenly realised the never ending vacuum of nothingness awaits us all but that conceivably, if I died possibly saving a small country or Cheryl Cole and if my parents raised enough money, Ronan Keating could make a strange tribute show for me too.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Rumble in Rangelagh

Sometimes life as London’s premier Irish community celebrity correspondent can be pretty jazzy. Regular lunches with the actress who plays Mary from “The Royal Family”, cock fighting with Terry Wogan, guiltily bundling a drunken Daniel O’ Donnell into an unsuspecting taxi after another lost night in Brixton; I won’t lie it has its moments.

But every now and then news drifts in about events unfurling in the old country of such awesomeness that you bitterly regret every lunch with Christine Beakley and every Queen’s shilling you sold your slowing warping accent for. I am of course talking about “The Rumble in Ranelagh” the celebrity scandal that is entertaining the Irish nation so much, that for a whole morning the entire country forgot they were going to have to sell their spare kidneys to Chinese business men for bread.

The scandal has everything; pissed former beauty queens, private jets and middle aged businessmen in public scuffles with angry TV presenter girlfriends. In other words it makes the whole Ashley and Cheryl saga seem as titillating as Deirdre and Ken from Coronation Street discussing whether they can get the trust back. This is celeb gossip Irish style and as such involves a lot of alcohol, violence and girls being really pissed off with each other.

The Princess Diana of the piece; Glenda Gilson, is the popular presenter of Expose, the flagship gossip programme for TV3, which is what a TV station would be if it mutated overnight from the free magazines given with weekend tabloids. The villain, former Miss Word, daughter of Chris de Burgh and all round Queen Bee of the Dublin Social scene Rosanna Davison. Rosanna represents the fin de siècle of the Celtic tiger, tanned to within an inch of her pores, hair straightened for a night out, get pissed ,vomit on her rugby boyfriends shoes, life off Daddy’s money- old school. Post economic collapse, RoRo and her friends wander confused around busted Dublin, like ghosts from the Court of Louis the Fourteenth stumbling through Revolutionary ravaged France wondering when the party is going to start again. In many ways our country let them down.

Glenda, despite a sixteen year age gap, had been secretly dating middle aged business man Johnny Ronan. The relationship had been a turbulent one with Johnny at one stage charmingly using that old fashioned device of a press statement to deny any relationship with the former model. It was during one of these rocky moments that Glenda, after a heavy night drinking watching the rugby drunkenly ordered him to come and meet her via some blurry text messages. Johnny arrived and the pair had a full screaming match on the street outside that culminated in Johnny grabbing Glenda’s head and Glenda attacking Johnny right in the rugby balls. To put this in perspective, it’s the equivalent of Fearne Cotton brawling with her secret lover Sir Alan Sugar outside a pub in Golders Green.

The next day, enter Rosanna, Glenda’s Best friend forever, to console the smarting millionaire business man over a few pints and a few fumbles if blurry tabloids pictures are to be believed. The new best friends decide on the spur of the moment to jet off on Ronan’s private jet for a few nights in Marrakesh. As you do. They had tried to get in touch with Rosanna’s boyfriend Wesley Quirke, heir to the Dr. Quirkey amusement arcade emporium but he unfortunately had his mobile turned off. When the pair returned days later, Rosanna was forced to issue a statement stressing her innocence and indignation on any smirch to her character.

The showdown was set for the following Friday’s “VIP” Style Awards where both The White Queen and Red Queen of the Irish social scene were nominated for most stylish Irish celebrity, an extremely competitive category in a country that boasts both Enya and Mrs. Doyle. However at the last minute Rosanna dramatically remembered a skiing trip that had been booked earlier and would make attending anything other than the red carpet part of the evening impossible. Why somebody would book a holiday on social event that justified their very existence was not explained. She also revealed she would be attending solo since as it was only a flying appearance there wasn’t much point in boyfriend Wes escorting her. I’m sure trust fund kid Wesley must have extreme demands on his time.

On the night- caluu, caley, wronged Glenda emerged and in a triumphant , teary, Aretha Franklin playing in the background way scooped the big award of the night, named most stylish Irish celebrity. A compliment indeed considering how famous the Irish are for their style. A sign that good women triumph in the end and in a world still reeling from the news that little Mark Owen is a trouser bandit, we need all the good news we can get.