Archive | January, 2012

Chapter 6 – Victoria & The Christmas Wee

12 Jan

20120112-161319.jpgVictoria grabbed a huge warm chunk of bread from the basket, buttered it thick, and dunked it into her delicious Ham Hock and Lentil soup. Auntie Mary was an incredible cook and Victoria was slightly tipsy and starving.

‘And after the meeting we met Claire who is like honestly, the size of a house. I mean she’s enormous!’ Victoria had been thoroughly detailing her first day with her Aunt, Uncle and cousin. ‘I don’t mean to be mean, but like I was quite stunned, you know? Biggest loser styles, man. She’s well fat.’

Her Uncle laughed heartily, filling her glass for the third time in 10 minutes. He was a retired accountant; short and slim with a perfect beer belly and a spray of white hair around his ears. These days he liked to play golf in Spain, eat blue cheese and drink very fine red wine, indeed. And, say ‘indeed’ after everything.

‘I don’t like it when you kids use the word ‘well’ in that way.’ Her Aunt murmured in her very soft Australian accent.

‘Anyway, she’s amazingly efficient. She’s not like Sophie – she’s calm and super organised. I’m going to learn soooo much from her. She gave me lots of work to do, that I’m responsible for, and Tom is going to show me how everything works. Tom’s really nice, sort of handsome, although I think he might be gay. It’s hard to tell unless they sound all gay, you know. And tomorrow we’re going to the Salon to meet the woman – and Sophie says that we’ll recast her staff if we need to.’

‘See, May,’ her Uncle started, ‘I told you it’s all fake. The Xfactor is the same, you know. They decide who will win right at the beginning. No point making all those phone calls this year – promise? Simon Cowell is no idiot.’

Victoria stared briefly at her Uncle, then deciding to ignore she kept going. ‘They will still work there Uncle Gerry, and anyway, it’s about the relationships, not the salon. It’s like Pineapple Dance Studios meets Vice magazine.’

‘Never heard of either.’’ declared her very straight, non-drinking cousin. Christian was a handsome, strapping lad – a rower – working his way through final year at college. He had plans to go to medical school in Nottingham. Christ was he ever dull. And so disapproving of everything Victoria did.

‘Oh I’m so excited.’ Victoria beamed at everyone, eyeing her uncle for another refill.

‘I can see that.’ her aunt smiled at her. ‘Your Mum called, by the way. They’re coming up for Sunday lunch and she wants you to bring your new man.’

Victoria stopped for a moment. She was ready to introduce James to her parents, but after last time…

‘Arghhh’ Victoria put her spoon down and rolled her eyes in the most dramatic fashion.

‘Come on now.’ Her aunt grinned, clearing the soup away and laying down an enormous block of Montgomery cheddar with water crackers and date chutney. Victoria instantly put on 3 pounds. ‘He can’t be any worse than The Last One, Vicky’

The Last One, Bryn, was was a tattooed, bong-smoker who had turned up at her parents place one Boxing Day, hungover as hell in a Cypress Hill t-shirt with jeans hanging halfway down his butt. The plan was for the two of them to meet friends at the pub, but her father had other ideas. It was rare for him to have male company around Christmas, so dressed like it was summer and with the heating set to full, he sat poor Bryn down with a few dozen beers to watch the Boxing Day test.

The poor slip of a creature had no chance of keeping up and had passed out on the couch. Around midnight he had woken up in a confused, still drunk, sweaty, half asleep haze and taken a wee on the Christmas tree. The result was a short circuiting of the power and ruining the remaining wrapped presents – including a cashmere scarf, paperback and a kindle. And perhaps worse, Victoria’s young sister Ivy had witnessed it all.

The story of Bryn had become one of those awful family anecdotes rolled out at every birthday, Christmas, Easter, wedding and funeral, and Victoria had resolved NEVER to introduce a boyfriend to her father ever again.

‘No, god.. no, please.’ Victoria protested.

‘Come on, darling. It would do your Mum good to see you happy.’

Victoria winced. She knew her Aunt was right. She would have to introduce them, but there would have to be a lot of prepping on both sides before hand.

‘Alright. I’ll ask him. But he’s probably busy with a gig or something.’ Victoria stuffed a huge wedge of cheese in her mouth, feeling instantly guilty and full of self loathing.

‘I’ll move the plant-pots outside.’ Christian snickered to himself.

Her Uncle was staring intently at Victoria and leaned across the table….

‘Did I ever tell you about the time I met you Grandfather?’ He had, several times, but Victoria sat back and laughed like it was the first. Her Aunt cleared away the table as Christian washed the dishes – chipping in bits of the story that Uncle Gerry missed.

It was Waverley, Australia, 1984. Uncle Gerry had been working on the deregulation of the banking system in Canberra, and had met her Aunt on a business trip up to Sydney.

‘They just got the dollar coin,’ Aunt May chimed in. ‘Your Uncle left one for me on the table and they weren’t even released yet.’

‘Your Aunt was a waitress at an Italian restaurant.’

Victoria knew every part of the story. She imagined the Australian sun on their faces, and the sepia tones of the beach front veranda, as the crashing of waves against rocks fought to drown out the hungry, agitated gulls.

She inhaled the pungent, intoxicating scent of frangepani, fried fish and chips with vinegar and the salty taste of sea spray in the warm air.

She pictured her old Australian Grandfather scowling as this soft young Englishman announced his plans to take his only daughter back to England. She imagined the sweat on his lip, the gentle pain in his heart, and the crisp right hook to Uncle Gerry’s face. Victoria looked across at him proudly rubbing his scar while Aunt May kissed his forehead.

Things had worked out. And she could only hope her Christmas wee story would one day be replaced by what ever happened this Sunday lunch when her parents met her James. This. Sunday. Lunch. Shit.

Chapter 5 – Sophie & The Production Meeting

2 Jan

20120112-154136.jpg
‘Balls, balls, balls’. Sophie sighed. ‘Oh god, there’s just too much to do.’

In front of Sophie, Tom, Kyle The Runner and Victoria lay a pile of treatments, overviews, rough budgets, headshots, CV’s and empty mugs. It was the kick off meeting for scripted reality show ‘Hip Replacement’ which was being renamed, because, the name was ‘obviously a dreadful joke’ and sounded like ‘an depressing view into the lives of 80-somethings’ Ian Langley had informed Sophie by email a few minutes before.

‘Where shall we start?’ Sophie sighed.

The door flew open and Ian strode in. Tall, dramatic, very clean. His hair was slightly silver and cropped short against his dry, over-tanned skin. He was TV rich (as in, not very). He drove a ridiculously large black car with tinted windows. This should have been hot. But, like many senior men in media there were some very serious failings. For one, he had a slightly high pitched voice. He enjoyed telling anyone who would listen that he was a nudest. His legs were slighly too short which made his torso look strangely long – and in the wrong cut suit he looked like a giant dwarf.

On his desk sat a framed photo of himself with a mullet from 1998 – the wrong year to have a mullet, even ironic ones didn’t appear until the early naughties. ‘An embarrassing gift from my old assistant,’ he would claim, handing it to you to get a closer look. He was also topless in it.

‘Hello.’ Ian smiled at Sophie. ‘And you must be Victoria?’

Sophie watched as Victoria blushed and smiled back at him. ‘Yes, very nice to meet you Ian.’ She tucked her hair behind her ears and chewed on a finger nail. Sophie noticed they were chewed down to the stump.

‘Well, we must go for a drink, eh?’ He nodded at Sophie. ‘Lets give her a proper Bear welcome, shall we?’

Sophie didn’t have time for this.

‘Sorry, we’ve got shit loads to do, Ian. Is Penny still around?’

‘Changed that bloody name yet? Hip Replacement? Who the fuck thought of that?’ Ian laughed.

‘Me.’ Said Sophie. ‘A least it’s not called ‘My Big Fat Hipster Challange’ or ‘ The Great British Hipster Revival’ or something equally unoriginal.’ She sighed. ‘We’re working on a new name, but firstly I NEED A FUCKING PRODUCTION MANAGER!’.

‘Jesus, Sophie. Language.’ Ian was thoroughly over-acting his disapproval in front of Victoria.

Victoria looked amused. Tom pushed a CV towards her. ‘Claire Renyolds. PM on 3 BBC feature programs, did some time on Big Brother and was just dropped from a new show due to funding cuts’

‘Tories.’ Ian looked slightly displaced, muttering as he backed slowly out of the room.

‘Oh, Tom.’ Sophie sat down, instantly more relaxed. ‘This is great. And she’s been called? And she’s available?’

‘Yep. I asked her to come in later today. Me and Victoria can prep everything if you like?’

‘Victoria and I.’ Said Sophie meekly. ‘That would be great.’

At that moment fucking Penny walked in and took a seat at the end of the table, Sophie noting the purposeful distance she put between herself and everyone else in the room. Penny had a thick fringe and glossy caramel hair. She had a huge rock on her finger from fiance Gerry who worked in the city doing rich things. Penny was well bred, well brought up, well beautiful and as dull as a night out with Human Resources. Her only fault – a lisp – was impossibly cute.

‘Aw, thanks for coming by. I actually think we’re fine now – amazing Tom’s has got it sorted.’

Penny sighed, slowly, painfully rising back up, and through a forced smile, ‘Oookay, let me know if I can do anything else.’

Sophie continued on. They chose casting agents, possible locations, refined the format. As the morning rolled into lunch, they ordered Kyle The Runner out for sandwiches and by 3pm, and several conversations with Legal, Sophie felt confident they had broken the back of it. They had not decided on a name because they had decided on a set – the set was to be a hairdresser/cafe/bar on a short strip off Bethnal Green Road called ‘The Locks Inn’. It was an iconic Brick Lane business – a cute, retro themed salon complete with barista out front and a ‘nail bar’ out back. It was run by a fabulous woman called Jennifer W. If the staff were not up to scratch they could hold castings and create the dynamic they needed. Sophie pushed away the twang of guilt she felt, reminding herself it would make Jennifer W a lot of money in the end.

‘Guys, this has been great.’ Sophie was tired and her head was starting to pound again. She reached for a couple of neurofen and her phone.

‘Tom can you get everything ready for.. Claire, was it?’

‘Yep, Claire Reynolds’

‘Great. And Victoria, can you type up the notes from today. It doesn’t need to be super neat or anything. I need to… well you guys can go now.’

She waited patiently while they packed and filed everything, and made their way out of the conference room. As soon as the door was closed she made the call.

‘Robyn. Have you got a sec?’ Sophie swung round in her chair to gaze out of the window.

‘Darling!’ Her voice filled with warmth and love. ‘I’ve got a very quick five mins – is that enough?’

‘It’s about Chris.’

‘Oh. Shall we meet after work? I can manage a glass.’ Sophie noted her hangover before agreeing.

‘That would be great. I’m just…’

‘Save it, darling. We can talk then.’

There was something in her best friends voice that told her she already knew. The crushing humiliation weighed down upon on her. She felt instantly nauseous and her chest tightened. How long had Robyn known?

‘Sophie?’ Victoria’s voice came from round the door as she slowly pushed into the room.

‘What is it?’ Sophie snapped, angry at the interruption and too teary to turn around.

‘I just bought you a coffee. I’ll can leave it here?’

‘Right. Thanks.’ she replied flatly.

The door shut softly. Guilt on top of pain turning to anger. It had been 3 years and it still smacked.