Tag Archives: personal

Busy doing nothing

Just another day at the office….

So I wasn’t entirely truthful labeling myself as one of the great unemployed – I have far too much of an odiously self-important social conscience for that. I do in fact normally forge an existence by undertaking numerous scrappy little jobs that come and go like Katie Price’s husbands – normally lingering just long enough to fill me with a quite delicious loathing of everything that they stand for. This week I am mostly unemployed… next week I’ll be sitting in a windowless basement in an joyless region of London’s east end with a earpiece screwed to my head cheerfully finding out how people rate their electricity provider on a scale of one to five.

Aaaah the joy of the call-centre. That merry respite of the actor. It doesn’t matter that the arts council has gone down the spout and that theatres are closing down nation-wide… who needs to tread the boards when we can spend all those years (and thousands of pounds) of training in faking a smile down a telephone line.

I’ve worked in countless call centres in London (there are a surprising number lurking down various dark alleys) and all of them are fully populated by frustrated out of work actors grimly hanging on to the remaining scraps of their self esteem. It fills me with joy to recount that my very first job – fresh faced and dewy eyed skipping away from my drama school graduation was in a factory like telephone market research complex on the wrong side of Old Street. There we all sat – quite literally hundreds of us – in our small chicken coups endless clucking away at the green print computer screens that time forgot trying to feign interest in to whether the person on the other end of the phone prefers Birdseye fishfingers or Sainsbury’s own.

I remember the small internal crumbling at the first fag break (a closely monitored fifteen minutes after two hours of being surgically attached to your terminal) when I made the discovery that far from being a exotic talent nestling among the ordinary folk to earn a wage – my two hundred fellow chicken coup co-habitors were in EXACTLY the same predicament. I learned to dread those snatched quarter hour breaks as much as the incessant ring tone of the headsets as it quickly became clear that they were an opportunity for the ego-obsessed luvvies to prove that they weren’t failing quite so badly as the next factory animal. If you were asked if you had anything coming up you could be sure it was because the chicken doing the asking was about to swept away by some mah-vellous opportunity that would send you back to your desk with your tail feathers very firmly between your legs and full of the overwhelming sense you were caught in some horrific groundhog day of perpetual failure.

“So where did you train?” I remember a particularly glassy voiced and startingly angular girl ask me one day,
“Erm.. Webber D – I’ve just left actually” I responded defensively.
“Oh really. RADA.” she proffered her school without any prompting, “I’ve always wondered why people bother going to the other drama schools. Everywhere else seemed like a waste of time to me.” I stifled the urge to rattle off a list of my own dear school’s glittering alumni knowing of course that she could always trump me and this wasn’t a battle of egos I could ever win.

The glorious Radanian – the spawn of that fine and infinitely pompous institution the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The Oxbridge of drama schools and the place that the lowly actors who did not walk its marbled corridors quickly learn to detest. Its graduates always seem to be slick with the sense of their own magnitude and are huge sufferers from a really rather severe sense of self importance that dwarfs anyone in their mighty step. They’ve always rather amused me really (when I’m not loathing them as yet another RADA-type beat me to the job I lusted after). As actors – we’re artists – of a sort – you certainly need the grit of a vocation-driven madman to persist in the industry – but also within the right job you genuinely do get an enormous sense of creative exhilaration and satisfaction. However we’re also selfish, self-obsessed and conceited buggers and never will we, through the might of our profession, save a life let alone the world. Try telling this to a Radanian. I’m sure they fully believe that they are among some chosen few that will revolutionise culture at a fundamental level. Their preciousness is at times hilarious and at times repugnant (depending normally on what side of the bed you’ve rolled out of that morning). They’re not all bad of course – occasionally you get the odd one that realises acting’s just a load of larking about – but that glassy voiced bitch puffing away on her fag outside the chicken factory in Old Street laid a prejudice deep in the heart of Maggie Adams that I silently and smugly enjoy.

Needless to say I didn’t last particularly long at that particular job. A few weeks in I’d taken to doing the Guardian Cryptic at the same time as listening to the eternal ring out of phones chirruping in empty homes the country over (the houses’ inhabitants blissfully unaware that I was desperate to question them in depth about fishfingers). One day I had a particularly greasy supervisor in charge of me and my oh so important call rate.
The supervisors were a wonderfully noxious race – actors too – but ones who had both been out of work so long and so lacked any type of spine that they had actually risen in the ranks of the factory to become the big fat cocks sitting at the end of each row. Now perhaps it was their inner self-loathing at the fact that they had allowed this to happen to themselves or perhaps it was a desperate grab at power over others to make up for how little they had over themselves – but these grotesquities were worse than the most dilligent and teacher worshipping prefect you’ve ever come across. They sharkily scoured the waters for anyone overstepping the fifteen minutes allotted for the break, miserly noting down every toilet break to make sure you weren’t pissing the calls away and pacing the aisles for anyone who might be making a tumble from total productivity. Of course my supervising cock hated me doing the crossword – and gave me warning after warning. I stubbornly persisted tartly replying every time that my calls were above average and it helped me to focus. On the third warning he snatched the crossword from my desk (and at this point I’d even gone to the bother of doing it impressively surreptitiously) screwed it up and told me they weren’t paying me to mess around. In all fairness, he probably had a point, but I was two clues off completion and my poor bruised sense of worth sternly asserted itself in a magnificent show of steely defense. I rose, slowly yet determinedly from my seat – a single towering head amongst the sea of busy poultry – and told my vainglorious critic that believe it or I was able to do two mindless activities at once and that if he had any sense of pride, or indeed survival he should take his bony overweening arse out of this godforsaken place and go and find a fucking life. I picked up my bag – snatched my crumpled crossword back and strode out with hundreds of chickens staring at me in disbelief. An exit I’d still be proud of if it wasn’t slightly tarnished by me pulling instead of pushing the heavy glass door causing my nose and forehead to crash into it with a dull thud.
The glory of this personal victory lasted a few days before I realised – shit I still have rent to pay – leading me to scour the notices for another call centre in need of silver voiced actors. And so the vicious cycle of my employment was born!

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A bad case of the pajama blues

Wonder Woman thought she might just stay in bed today

So here I am – unemployed, on the wrong side of my 20s, and slouched in my ‘seen a better day’ PJs.¬† The guffaws and roars of schoolkids going home outside my window shock me into the dawning realisation that another day might be slipping on past without any great advancement in the life of Maggie Adams. Thus forms my grand resolution to open the laptop – set up a blog and start writing because if my life really is slipping down the pan I might as well document its apocalyptic decline!

I’m the perfect poster girl of our glorious Y generation (with the emphasis on the ‘why’). Brought up by the uproarious baby boomers with their thatcherite greed, multiple houses and enormous sense of ease and entitlement – to be shunted into a world crippled by an almighty recession stuffed full of ridiculous dreams that I’m starting to discover might not be all that attainable!

I remember confidently laying out my life plans to my mum as I blew out the candles on my tenth birthday cake. By the age of twenty four, I declared, I would be a tremendously successful actress with a beautiful house in London (four bedrooms would do – if it had a nice garden) and a magnificent husband to match with whom I would quickly start farming out equally magnificent offspring. It’s not gone entirely to plan. At the grand old age of 28 I’m four years late and living in a poky flatshare with two gay men in Tooting, have a less than illustrious acting career (for which read nonentity of an acting career) and am monumentally single.

But it’s not all bad (the mantra I must repeat on days like this) I have great friends and I live in a great city and I’m not shackled to some godawful job that forces me to exist purely for the weekend. Part of growing up has seemed to have been the grim acceptance that life isn’t as simple as a child’s led to believe; you don’t get all the answers by joining up the dots, or colouring the sky blue and the grass green – existence is far more gloriously muddy and complex¬† – which can be a total shitter but it can also be a huge adventure.

I was always a very good girl. I worked hard at school, handed my homework in on time, excelled in all my exams, studied English at a good university – ticking all the right boxes until I realised that I had to choose what box came next and I really didn’t have a clue. I juggled lots of fantasies – Maybe I could take myself away to art college and invest in a myriad of berets before becoming a fine artist locked in a basement producing masterpieces that pretentious peers would coo over; or perhaps I could be a painfully cool graphic designer occupying some loft in Shoreditch, or maybe a pioneering journalist risking life and limb to uncover injustice, or maybe just maybe I could be that renowned actress the ten year old had dreamed of – gracing the stage at the National Theatre and being in (only really good you understand) BBC costume dramas where I got to wear REALLY pretty dresses. There was no competition really – the prospect of potential pretty dresses won through and I took myself off to drama school where I emerged with a much competed for piece of paper that said I could act – and by god wasn’t the world just my oyster….

Which brings me back to my flatshare in Tooting, writing in my pajamas at 4pm on a murky November afternoon with a few pennies left in my overdraft and the dull warblings of Dolly Parton pulsating through the walls from the gay flatmate’s bedroom. Four years and a career development loan later I’m not exactly living the dream – more dreaming of what that life could be – and trying to work out where the hell I go about finding it.

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