Sunday, 1 January 2017

What Happened In 2016 (Part One)

Happy new year - and welcome back!

Yes, I did it. I skipped a whole year of blogging... and what a barmy twelve months 2016 turned out to be. I'm faced with the challenge of now filling you in on all that's happened to me (quite a bit, actually), and across the world. So, over the next few days I'm posting a series of texts that wrap up the year just gone, and look ahead to 2017.

Before we begin, let's consider where I left off at the close of 2015.


A few dark clouds hang heavy over me. Most prominently, I was reeling from a break-up a handful of months before. Still in contact with Gabi, my ex-girlfriend, I participated in unhealthy amounts of time thinking of her, wishing things were different... that she were still with me. I was making myself desperately sad. I hadn't yet realised no amount of upset would ever bring her back, or make things right.

Then there was my employment. At the mid-point of 2015 I'd left a long time job at Vue Cinemas, and entered an era of job uncertainty - that had seen me unemployed, then working with Raindance, Vue (again, temporarily) and ending the year as a customer assistant within the comics department of Forbidden Planet. But I was well aware this couldn't last, and something more permanent was needed... quickly.

Lastly, despite moving back to London 6 weeks before, I hadn't yet reestablished a routine; still discovering new friends and new stomping grounds - especially as I attempted to readjust to single life, and away from Vue. Without any form of routine it did feel like I was just drifting daily - aimlessly from one thing to another.

As I previously blogged I decided to try and change things for 2016. Hence, I stopped blogging - because it felt like a privilege I abused in 2015, by constantly using this site as a soapbox, sounding off about my life, intruding on the privacy of those people in it. I needed to step back, stop writing and commenting, and just live again. I also gave up things like Facebook, media 'gossip' sites like DigitalSpy, Doctor Who fan forums and - most painfully! - my iPod. All these things were being overused, and I didn't doubt some time away from them would make me appreciate them again come 2017... or make me realise I could live without them permanently.

So, 2015 ended and we begin...


My role at Forbidden Planet was advertised as that of a Christmas temp - so I had worried that I'd end up jobless after the Christmas period. But no, FP kept me on - albeit I shared a relatively small number of shifts with the other casual staff. This meant I'd get anything from two to five shifts per rota. In the long term, I'd come to realise I'd need a second job to support myself. I had already started job hunting - focusing on jobs either in events, or management. Although I was determined not to return to cinema an opportunity did come up at Curzon - as a Venue Manager at their Goldsmiths Curzon Connect site. I applied and got to the interview stage. They were very nice, but I didn't get it.

What was nice after shifts at FP was heading to a local pub - the Royal George in Soho - for a drink with colleagues (always just a coke for me). It offered a chance to catch-up with them, learn more about them, and talk creative ideas. These conversations would pay dividends by year's end... as you will come to see!

Wanting to put the sadness of 2015's break-up behind me, January was a fresh start for me emotionally. I made a real effort to move on from the past, by not messaging the ex, and distracted myself with trips to the cinema, accompanied by my new friend Svetlana. We watched Room and The Revenant together. (I'll chart at the bottom of each month exactly what I watched, but be warned... I wasn't all that impressed by 2016's cinematic output!!)

Meanwhile at home, after weeks of growing closer and closer, flirting tremendously... me and my housemate Mafalda kissed. Twice, actually. But in both instances she backed down, and insisted afterwards that nothing further could happen between us. I have to admit that I wasn't convinced, and did continue to pursue her for a while, but it became increasingly obvious to me that the two of us were not a good fit together. However, we did remain very close and would hang out at the house where we could, talk a lot, go shopping together, and sometimes do stuff away from the house - like the occasional drink, or cinema visit. It was... cosy.

Lucky for me January also brought the newly revived X-Files season! It was a real mixed bag (I thought 2 were great, 2 were OK, 2 were rubbish) but I enjoyed seeing Mulder & Scully back all the same. I was also watching season 4 of the classic show nightly, and the Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning era of 1970's Doctor Who. A nightly post-work routine had started to form.

Of course the big news from this month was the death of David Bowie. I think it hit me, and just about everybody else, hard - not just became he was a cultural, British icon, but by how sudden and unexpected the news was. His death marked the beginning of some massive celebrity deaths this year - but I have loved Bowie's music since childhood, so none hurt as much as losing my Starman.

Films watched: The Hateful Eight (****), Creed (****), The Revenant (***1/2), Room (****), Youth (**1/2)


Job hunting continued across the month - and actually yielded some results! I managed to reach the 3rd interview stage for the role of Executive P.A. at Titan (FP's parent company) but fell at the last hurdle - only after meeting the Company's two leading Directors, mind. I can't grumble - as the guy who was selected over me had extensive P.A. experience, and deserved it. There was also an interview with the UK Green Film Festival, on my birthday actually! Again, it didn't lead anywhere. So I remained at Forbidden Planet - working my few shifts per week, growing more and more anxious about money, as my bank balance depleted...

Across a week I wrote a new short film screenplay - based on an idea I had back in 2015: a murder mystery, but with no murder! Instead, a sandwich has gone missing from the staff room fridge... and the boss pulls out all the stops to work out whodunnit! It took me a while to get my head around the concept, the characters and the complexity of working out who did what, and when. Everything clicked on a night out with my good friend Jonathan Stevenson, where we talked the sceniro through, and I stitched the plot for the damn thing together.  Afterwards I had a blast writing it, which might explain the extreme speed it was written in! It was passed across to Svetlana - who planned to direct this and another short script of mine, Not On Your Nelly!, back-to-back. Development on them would continue across the rest of the year. I felt pretty confident about this one, though. Housemate Jack had read it, and gave me his approval - which meant a lot.

I turned 27 this month, with a bit of a a strange birthday! Firstly there was the aforementioned interviews, taking place in the morning. Upon them concluding, I headed into FP for a shift - where nobody knew of my special occasion! End of my shift I headed across to the George with Jonathan and my line manager Tom - a dry humoured guy that, up to this point, I was convinced hated me! (I started to realise otherwise). It was a surreal evening. I ran into another FP boss, Lou, and her friend - who just happened to be a top level TV producer. We got chatting, and she asked about my writing. It was an exciting talk, and I thought it might lead somewhere - like an invite to the studios, or to pitch her something. It didn't, but for that one night it didn't matter - because it was my birthday, and I was mixing with friends and TV talent! I dreamt of nights like this growing up!

February was nice, as friendships formed began to solidify. For the first time people came over to my house, I'd cook, we'd enjoy something on TV, and talk. Me and Mafalda resolved the post-kissing awkwardness, and began to learn more about one another, spending lots of time together in the house. It was all very nice (even if she did moan, and nag me to death!) - and alongside my visiting friends, this was a million miles away from my life in Shepherds Bush, where it was pretty much just me, locked away in my room.

Me and housemate Jack didn't get to see much of each other, as I was out in the day, and he worked a bar in Liverpool Street at night. However across the month, wherever we could, we'd watch an episode or two of Curb Your Enthusiasm season 1. It was a pretty, pretty good laugh, made all the better because I shared it with a friend.

For the rest of this month's entertainment I watched a chunk of The X-Files season 5, and FINALLY (!) read that big, thick New X-Men Omnibus that I'd owned since, what, 2011 or 2012? Slow reader, huh?

Films watched: The Big Short (***), Spotlight (***1/2), Deadpool (***)

MARCH 2016

This month was all about jobs...

Oh... it was horrible! Rewind... my job hunting was continuing, but not resulting in anything. Now, time wasn't on my side - money was running low, and if I didn't find something soon, I would have to return home to Manchester. A job opportunity came up at the restaurant chain known as The Diner; a waiter. I wasn't happy about it (I thought I deserved better) but I applied all the same, and had the most casual interview you could imagine. It resulted in not one but two (!) trial shifts, at the Soho branch. Like I said... horrible! I'm really not suited to that kind of environment; making small talk not only to customers, but the staff too, juggling tables, cleaning, taking orders. I hated it. They offered me a job (because, despite all that, I was still OK at the role) but after speaking to Mum, Housemate Jack and Mafalda about it, I turned it down. Which was fine and all... but money really now was a concern... and I entered an overdraft at the bank.

All month long, I carried the stress of this. One fateful day, the worst day it could have possibly happened, I messaged Gabi and she responded by making a joke about me online. Stressed... sad... I snapped. Before, during and after the incident we had both said and wrote unnecessary things, that I for one now regret. Look, I over reacted. I apologised later on, but it was the final straw - Gabi hasn't spoken to me since. As much as I miss her friendship, it's perhaps for the best.

But I said this was all about jobs... Tired of taking flak from his boss Eddie, housemate Jack walked out of his Liverpool Street employment this month! He'd land on his feet though. I helped him job hunt, and he found a role at a nice pub in Woolwich Town Centre called Dial Arch. One of the few positive things this year has been seeing Jack's lifestyle ascend to bigger and better things - and it would continue to do so, beyond the Dial Arch...

Dad paid a successful visit at the start of the month. When he's been before it's usually just been me and him, either going to the cinema or watching TV at my home. I was adamant this time he'd do more - so every night of the visit he met another of my friends. First night, he was up until 4am talking and drinking with housemate Jack. They got on like a house on fire! Then Dad went to the George with me, and drank with Jonathan and some other FP faces. On the last night, he took me and Mafalda for a meal at 02's Square Pie. He picked up on how close the two of us were, suspicious when I said she wasn't my girlfriend - but it was, sadly, true! Dad left that weekend, I think, having had a bit of fun with my friends and - for the first time ever, maybe - realising that I wasn't at all socially awkward, and more than capable of having decent friendships!

With shifts at FP drying up, but me stressing about work, I felt guilty doing anything that allowed me some entertainment! But I found time to read Frank Miller's initial Daredevil run, as well as The Dark Knight Returns. The timing of these were perfect - with Daredevil season 2 and Batman VS Superman released this month. Housemate Jack and Mafalda joined me to watch BvS at the cinema, and we all came out saying what a pile of shite it was! Much better were the enjoyable Sporcle competitions that Jack had introduced me to!

Films watched: Hail, Caesar! (**), Hitchcock/Traffaut (**1/2), 10 Cloverfield Lane (***), High-Rise (***), Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice (*1/2), Zootropolis (****)

APRIL 2016

I returned to Manchester for the first time in 2016, for my step-sister Kirsty's wedding. It was nice, but did make me feel a tad inadequate - being the only sibling left who wasn't with a significant other. The amount of people who have told me across 2016 "You will find the perfect somebody eventually..." Yeah, helpful, thanks!

My bank account pretty much exhausted, it was time to face up to my unemployment woes. My friend Kathryn got in touch, and offered a job working at her Vue Cinema site. I resisted as long as I could - purely because I did not want to return to Vue again. Eventually though, I decided I was silly turning up any job opportunity. I reluctantly agreed to work for Kathryn, and rejoin the Vue family - 10 months after originally leaving, and making a big deal of it. I tried to keep an open mind. I would be working at a site new to me, Islington, with a brand new team and alongside a friend. Maybe things would be different... better? Especially with all I had learnt since leaving? I started back, and remember being stuck on gate on my very first shift, looking around, realising I just didn't care about any of this anymore. Time dragged. Seconds felt like hours. I wanted it to be over; but having agreed to come back, I promised Kathryn I would stay for at least 3 months. I had to honour that.

Perhaps symbolically, this month my original Vue Cinema (Pilsworth, Bury) was demolished.

Working back at Vue wasn't completely terrible though. I did genuinely get on with other members of the management team, and my own management style had changed. I was now relaxed, somewhat lenient and less prone to making rash judgement. The staff liked that, and I would often go out with them for after work McDonalds or drinks. Plus Svetlana's Cineworld (Hammersmith) closed down, and I was able to offer her work at my site, which she appreciated. I might not have wanted to be there, and hated the experience, but I was damned if it would show and I couldn't be nice instead of the usual Vue attitude.

I kept my job at FP. I had made too many friends there, and I knew it would keep me grounded, protecting me from getting sucked back in completely into the Vue machine. It meant that I worked every day of the day - sometimes doing shifts back-to-back. I literally had no spare time, putting my social life on hold, in a desperate attempt to juggle both jobs. Looking back, it was crazy - zapping not just my time, but my entire life force. I was never home, couldn't do simple tasks like cleaning or shopping, and some nights I got as little as 3 hours sleep - returning from Vue at 5am, to be up to work at FP for 8am. In the words of Mafalda (use to seeing me around the house, but now feeling neglected because I was never home) I had gone from working "8 to 80".

I did find time to watch my workmate Jack O'Mullane's band Little Green Men play in Camden (gleefully winding his friend Jamie up throughout) and I went a little too mad for McDonald's monopoly...!

Well done to my friend Jonathan who got his comic Super published in Starburst Magazine!

Films watched: Eddie the Eagle (**1/2), Victoria (**1/2), The Jungle Book (***1/2), Captain America: Civil War (***), Son Of Saul (****1/2)

MAY 2016

Throughout the year I was making notes on significant events that took place each month. May has the shortest number of things jotted down - just 4! It demonstrates just how few things I was doing because, chief amongst them, is the fact that between Vue and FP I worked 28 days straight! Crazy.

Somehow I never felt tired; always summoning up enough energy to see me through. I was, however, increasingly frustrated that I couldn't do things that I wanted to as time was short. If it wasn't mentally healthy it wasn't particularly healthy on my body either... as I survived off of fast food, and Sainsbury's £3 meal deals, and that flat belly I had regained towards the end of 2015 quickly disappeared, returning to a previously flabby state.

I tried to be cheap, by cutting my hair at home. It (obviously) went wrong, and resulted in me having to shave all of my hair off. I went from this...

...To this!


Meanwhile, I tried to maintain production on the short films with Svetlana (Nelly/Crumbs). We talked up budgets, and tried to establish a production schedule. It looked like it was all leading somewhere, and was exciting, and I couldn't wait to get started! Also, me and Jonathan were trying to put Out on screen. In a similar vein, we had production meetings, and itched closer to production...

I got the chance to meet Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch at an instore FP book signing. I told Andrew how much his era of Doctor Who meant to me, and he seemed delighted when I said that Survival was my favourite. Having met so many famous folk through my years of Leicester Square events, this was the first proper time I had geeked out meeting somebody!

Films watched: Everybody Wants Some!! (**), Green Room (****1/2), Our Kind Of Traitor (**), X-Men: Apocalypse (**), A Hologram For A King (**)

JUNE 2016

An opportunity came up to work 2 weeks at Titan (FP's parent company) and I put myself forwards. I landed a job within the marketing department, loading content onto the FP website. Of course, the 2 weeks flew by... but I was asked to stay on beyond this. Great! However... they wouldn't commit to a full time job, so I couldn't leave Vue, as at any moment, I could have been asked to go back to working instore at FP, with the minimum amount of shifts it offered. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Kathryn was understanding, and moulded my Vue shifts around the Mon-Fri of Titan; but it meant every Friday I worked 10-6 at Titan, then commuted to Angel to work 7-3 at Vue, and on Sundays I would finish at 3am... to return to work at Titan only a few hours later.

By this point, I had settled into Vue. I was creating the staff rota, and running solo shifts again. Me and another manager, Phil Heslop, found that we had a very similar sense of humour and we were always larking around, taking the mickey out of how preposterous the things Vue expected us to do actually were. Kathryn wasn't thrilled by this. She took me out for a coffee, for a serious talking to. She said she had employed me to be above that, and felt I wasn't doing a very good job at the cinema - her exact words being "what is the point in you being there?". I was angry, and felt betrayed. It was a fair comment that I didn't enjoy it, or care, but by God I tried my hardest to do a good job there. She wasn't noticing all of my hard work... and I decided then and there to get out of there ASAP. Of course, things wouldn't prove that simple...

Again, there weren't all that many days off. My typical work rota:

MON: Titan (9-6)
TUES: Titan (9-6), Vue (7-11, Rota)
WEDS: Titan (9-6)
THUS: Titan (9-6)
FRI: Titan (9-6), Vue (7-Close)
SAT: Vue (2-10, or 6-Close)
SUN: Vue (2-10, or 6-Close)          

Still, I didn't feel particularly tired and kept on going.

We had a vote this month, too. In/Out? The UK referendum on whether to remain a part of the EU had dominated the news for months. We ultimately took the decision to leave (I wanted to remain) - and the morning after was such a bizarre experience here in London. Everybody on the underground was silent, mournful... and then the shit really hit the fan. David Cameron resigns! Boris! Gove! The economy! It continued for days/weeks, until it became obvious the story would dominate the headlines for the next few years. Well, you were never short of something to talk about down at the George.

Talking of which I attended my very first Troopers! Once a month, all the comic talent of London assembles in one pub. Alongside Jack and Jonathan I sat with the likes of Kieran Gillen and faces from 2000AD. It was thrilling... and a sweet taste of things to come.

Having weekday evenings to myself, and in between nights out with friends, I did manage to find time to myself to watch Veep, and the finale to Game Of Thrones season 6.

Back home, my sister Donna announced that she was pregnant with her third child. I returned at the end of the month to dog-sit as my family headed out to Turkey for a week. I took the opportunity to spend time with Dad, Nanny Duffy, and friends like Dan O'Connor, Rob Dyson and Phil Wooller. I had wanted to make a short film, but I just ran out of time. Inbetween the jobs my brain didn't have enough time to think anything up; and ultimately, I think I was best off just resting during the week anyway!

Films watched: The Nice Guys (****), When Marnie Was There (**), Independence Day: Resurgence (*1/2), Minority Report (RI ***1/2)

And that's how I ended the first half of the year...

In Part Two it's July through December... I quit a job, and surprise even myself!
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