Archive for March, 2009

The Pigeon Detectives

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this afternoon’s adventures. Slightly boofus? Annoyed? A bit sheepish because throughout the experience, even as the horror unfolded, I was thinking “this is totally bloggable”? Have I discovered that I am nicer than I thought? Or meaner? You decide.

It started when I was walking back to the office from a meeting at around 4pm. As I emerged from under a railway bridge, a car shot past me, accelerating, there was a muffled “thunk”, and a cloud of feathers billowed into the  sunshine. The  car whizzed off, the driver obviously pleased with his (I’m making an assumption here, both on gender and intention) bloodthirsty work.

I actually vomited a little in my mouth at the scene the vehicle left in its wake. Five pigeons were scattered across the road, at various stages along the alive/dead spectrum.When I was little I was scared of pigeons and used to shriek “meaty legs! meaty legs!” in fear when I saw them. Today’s pigeon massacre didn’t do much to bury this early pigeon-horror mental connection. I was frozen to the spot, boaking mildly and hit with the realisation that this was probably the grossest thing I had ever seen in real life. Wings and legs and heads were splayed at unnatural angles, some of them were twitching, and most eyeing me as if to say “help me”.

I have to confess that if one pigeon had been hurt, I (*whispers*) might have made like Dione Warwick and walked on by. But the extent of the carnage shocked me into action. I hurried back to the office and called the RSPCA, feeling, I’m ashamed to admit, very smug about my good-heartedness. The (rather arsey, actually) guy in the call centre explained wearily to me that I needed to go and check the pigeons were still there, and wait with them until the officer came out. I couldn’t just tell the RSPCA then wash my hands of the whole sorry business. I was invested in these birds, it seemed. This was the point at which I confronted the uncomfortable limits of my goodwill. I sort of wished I had never called. But, fearing karmic retribrution, I found myself abandoning my extensive to-do list and going back to Pigeon Watch on the street corner, cold and anxious at the preshus work time being wasted.

The scene I returned to was less dramatic: three of my feathered friends had flown away; one had passed away neatly lying on his back, with his little meaty legs curled up on his chest; only one poor birdy soul was still hanging on, every now and then dragging himself grotesquely across the pavement by the power of one healthy wing.

A young lad with a lip ring called David, who looked like an extra from Skins and explained that he’s a vegetarian so the pigeons’ fate was “like, a double blow”, had taken up residence at the crime scene and had called the RSPCA too. On hearing this news, I once again discovered that I’m not quite the Erin Brocovich of the bird world that I thought I was. My first thought was: David can wait with the pigeon! I can go back to work! But David’s boss at the bar he works at was calling him and grumbling about lateness, so I told him to run along and I would wait for the RSPCA. We had an awkward number-swapping moment- he wanted to know when the pigeon had been rescued and wouldn’t rest easy til he had word from me. I tell you, if I had been a 17 year old Emo, it could have been the love story of the year.

30 minutes later I was still shivering and guarding the poor beady-eyed pigeon. At one point a blind woman heard me on the phone badgering (heh) the RSPCA- because I had to go home at some point in the evening and wanted to know where officer was- and stopped to ask what was going on and offer to fetch a cardboard box from her office to put the pigeon in. But then neither of us could stomach the idea of touching it, so we abandoned that idea.

Turns out the double-call from both David and I had led to the call centre accidentally cancelling both call outs- which they tried to blame on ME(!), leading to an unexpected call centre-based strop on my part (the sort of behaviour that would normally be saved for dealing with banks). Eventually I was forced to leave the pigeon, as I really did have to go home. I called the RSPCA again to explain my predicament, mumbling feebly “he’s crawled under a wheelie bin now so he should be protected”.

And now I am racked with guilt; I wonder what happened to old Meaty Legs, twitching under the wheelie bin. I hope he was found and made comfortable (dude was in dire need of some drugs). And I feel bad for my Skins friend David. I phoned him when I left the scene, saying “hello, it’s Pigeon Girl” and explaining the situation. He was OK about it but dismayed that he couldn’t be assured of Meaty Leg’s safety. I hope he is not losing sleep over the pigeon’s fate (should I text him to give him some closure? Or would that make me Weird Stalker Pigeon Girl? I’m stumped).

And I hope not to get embroiled in a pigeon massacre again, ever. Unless I run out blog material, that is.

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Twilight

Oh hai. I can haz hometime? Well, no, because I have a ridiculous job and here comes another “I’m working at the weekend, what fresh hell is this?” post.

Here I sit, at 19.43 on a Friday night, waiting for a big boss to sign off a piece of paperwork for some filming tomorrow. To be fair, big boss is on her way to filming herself, on a train, and not gallavanting in a wine bar or reclining on the sofa, as any reasonable human being should be right now. So I can forgive.

And also to be fair, there is some amusement to be had from the night time goings-on in my office. Right now there is a briefing going on for a show being produced out of my department. “True love? How do you find it? How do you keep it?”, they are wondering out loud. Well, certainly not by working at 19.43- wait, 19.45 now- on a Friday night.

“Trainspotting!” they are now declaring. “Geeky anoraky hobbies! What is the appeal?”

“Miss and Mrs- apparently women are kicking off about it” (dubious snorts abound). 

And to continue to be fair, tonight we had the rare occasion of a Drinks Trolley in the office, because someone was leaving. So this post comes to you by way of a glass of cheap fizz and a beer.

Hic.

Deja-View

Greetings  once again from Cornwall, this time from the middle class tourist ghetto of Padstow. This insanely picturesque fishing town is also known as Padstein, owing to the shauls of Rick Stein endeavours swimming its cobbedly streets. Within a square mile radius you’ll find the Stein Seafood Restaurant, Cafe, Deli, Patisserie, Fish and Chip Shop and soon-to-be Bar. Thanks in no small part to this profileration of Steineries, all offering exquisitely tasteful decor and exquisitely fresh food, Padstow should also be known as Padsmug. The yummy mummies and their organic rattan husbands just can’t get enough.

Small boys named Ezra and Moss, in baggy combats and wistful curls, request balsamic vinegar for their artisan chips. City types in country garb huddle, North Face ‘rak to Rip Curl gilet, in the windows of estate agents, dreaming of leaving London, relocating to Padstow, and thus making the seamless move from tourist to one-who-grumbles-about-tourists. I  heard one couple- surely from Islington- breathe in wonder “cod, chips and buttered bread for £9.50!” outside Stein’s fish and chip shop. I had just baulked in miserly fashion at the same offer, and set off to find a more reasonably priced pasty or similar. In short, everybody just seems so awfully pleased with themselves for being here.

I’m here as part of my effort to transform a long working weekend into a Cornish minibreak for one, aka Bokker’s Celebrity Chef Tour of the West Country. I ate at the Stein Cafe last night (haddock so beautiful that when the waitress asked if everything was OK, instead of nodding politely I mumbled “insanely delicious”. Yes I did), and on Tuesday I’m booked into Jamie Oliver’s place in Newquay with a colleague who’s arriving tonight (note: expensive dinners are not coming out my programme budget). Of course, there’s the small matter of filming and 5am starts and wading through fish guts and, you know, working. But in between unpleasant bouts of labour, it’s better than a slap in the face with a perfectly filleted fish. 

And it is beautiful here. The harbour is flanked by fingers of land reaching out beyond the estuary, topped with green and edged along the bottom with golden sand. Since I arrived yesterday, the views have changed constantly, as showers sweep through, ushered out to sea by intensely sunny spells, and the tide breathes its way in and out of the harbour. I’ve been for a walk (slight boofus moment when I found myself in a deserted shingley cove complete with spooky cave and suddenly started to think about the Point Horror books of my youth), pottered around the pointless but delightful shops, and drunk in the gorgeous air.

But you know that saying: if a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it fall, does it make a sound? I feel the same way about my solitary adventures. The more painfully perfect my surroundings get, the more lonely I feel. Last night in the Cafe, I felt I would be insulting the food by reading a book while enjoying it, and couldn’t think where to look instead. Unfortunately there was a large painting of a naked surfer girl (not as vulgar as it sounds, I promise), the derriere of which was directly in my eyeline. Lest I look like a perv as well as a loner, I therefore had to spend the whole evening with my eyes darting around the room, landing anywhere but on the bare bum. I swung between trying to cultivate an air of dignified mystery and wanting to shout “I’m working, OK!”.

And on my own, I don’t do well with choices. With so many beautiful things to look at and enticing little nooks to explore, I get sort of flustered and end up frozen to the spot, on the verge of throwing my hands up and going back to my hotel room to eat the free shortbread and watch T4 instead.

I’m quite accustomed to being on my own for work, but usually in god-awful places like Romford. I’m not used to all this pleasantness and it’s throwing my solitude into sharp focus. Still, ever the stoic, I’m just off to buy some handmade fudge and smug about  a bit on the harbour, and try to feel awfully pleased with myself for being here.

Mummy Wow! I’m a Big Girl Now!

I’m no longer wallowing in gloom, you’ll be pleased to hear. I did, however, have quite an emotional day, and one in which I feel I moved on in some small way, as a person and as a Sausage Factory monkey.

One thing you should know about me is that I cry very easily. It’s uncontrollable and embarrassing.  Two things, actually: I also do not like criticism one bit (who does, right? But I mean it really upsets me). That’s why I was a geek at school, that’s why I’m a perfectionist at work. Because I can’t bear not to be doing well. Unfortunately the TV industry is not peopled by life-affirming people who heap fulsome praise upon their staff- so I have to try extra hard to keep my fragile ego in tact.

This post is not reflecting well on me so far. Ah well…

So, the other week I spent a happy hour or so capering around on the beach in Cornwall, filming some case studies for the programme I’m working on. I’m not very… well, good… at self-shooting- that is, actually holding the camera and filming the action myself. I’m much better when bossing around working with a camera man. As documented in my feverish ranting last week, I have been worried about how this material had turned out.

Today I got the call from my producer. My beach footage was unusable. He was nice about it, but I knew he must have been effing and blinding at the screen while watching my stuff (such is the way of the Sausage Factory). I felt so bad that I’d let him down- let myself down, let the world down, waaaah!- that I felt that familiar pricking behind my eyelids and swelling in my chest. Even more so when boss man asked me to come down to the edit to watch the footage and see where I went wrong! I probably sounded quite rude when I squeaked “k then. See you soon. Bye!” while he was mid sentence. I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.

As soon as the phone was down, my tears ducts went into overdrive. Tears were dripping from my eyes and splashing down my cheeks unstoppably. I didn’t even have time to make it to the loo. It’s quite sinister how I can cry without making a sound (apart from the odd gutteral sniff), so I was able to conceal my crying from my colleagues, though I did phone G for sympathy.

The walk of shame to the edit suite loomed, and I didn’t know what awaited me at the other end, but I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to cry in front of my producer and the editor. So I equipped myself with advice: have a glass of water to sip each time I felt like crying; go prepared with questions about how I can improve; pretend I was someone else, someone with defences more robust than a jellyfish; smile.

When I arrived, my producer assured me that this wasn’t a big deal and that my footage was beautiful… “it’s just unusable!” (much mirth from him). In return I told him in a non-wobbly voice that I was keen for feedback, but that I get upset very easily, so he wasn’t to take it personally if I dripped tears over his keyboard.

We watched, we talked, I learned some valuable lessons. I didn’t cry! I listened to constructive criticism without taking it to heart! This is a first for me. I felt very grown up, almost triumphant, when I left. Perhaps I’ve come to this place a little late, at age 28. But I got there in the end- or at least I hope I did.

(ps Another thing I learned today: Maybelline Volum’ Express Colossal Mascara = amazing! It survived my crying jag with nary a smudge and my lashes stayed fully mascared even post-weep. And it wasn’t even the waterproof version)