Journ Baby Journ

This week I made a couple of tentative steps into my attempts at becoming a real journo. These involved being invited to the screening of a TV show, drinking too many of the complimentary beers, standing quite close to two men I admire but couldn’t pluck up the balls to talk to and then sitting on my own, at the back of an auditorium, pretending to take notes. You know what I worked out? I fucking love being a journalist.
The series in question was The Mimic, the beer in question was Becks, and the two men were Terry Mynott (who stars as Martin Huddle) and Matt Morgan (who wrote it (and also saw Russell Brand right through his darkest ages)). I admire them because they are both brilliant at what they do, funny and seem approachable, yet, I could not approach them.
I have discovered that the best thing you can do when at a press launch event type thing is pretend you know what everyone is talking about and say the name of your publication as often and as quickly as you can.
“Paul Schiernecker” I muttered to the girls in reception handing out the laminates. “I’m here for WUWO”. I took stock of what I was saying, issuing words like I was Doctor Gonzo with a cigarillo clamped between his grinding jaws, A man walked in front of me in a bike jacket.
“Hi, I’m really sorry but I need to toilet, can I just grab my pass?” he asked. I went to be annoyed, to issue some kind of disdain at being shoved down the line before I realised I was before the very man I was there for. It was Terry Mynott, the mimic, the talent, the man my friend Aislinn had described as being like a good looking version of Dan Skinner. He was there, right in front of me, and he needed a wee. I couldn’t believe it.
The reception girls threw their arms out over their deck, trying to find his pass and then handed it across to him, all crouched and lowly like Gollum. He walked off to the toilets. I stood, amazed.
I’m easily starstruck. I once told Simon Pegg that I wanted to keep my brother in a shed. I once freaked out when Simon Amstell appeared to acknowledge I was a person in a hallway of The Roundhouse. I was once onstage with Joe Pasquale in a pantomime production of Peter Pan. I am not yet cut out for the dizzying heights of being Mikey P (that’s what us journos call Michael Parkinson). I stood like a man possessed and watched someone I had seen on the telly a few times disappear off to the lav. I couldn’t believe I had come so close to an interaction. Maybe it could replace the time I saw Paul Gascoigne in an airport as my celebrity story. No, don’t be too brash Paul, think about what you’re saying!
I then had to repeat my name, annunciating effectively this time so they could dig it out for me. At the top it had a big double line through the words “Victoria Wood – writer”.
Fuck you Dinnerladies, I thought to myself and was ushered down the stairs in to the basement like an errant Fritzl mongrel child.
When I got down there I found a crowd of other unwashed, Converse bedecked and bespectacled writer types awaiting some kind of action. They each sat in a corner of the room which was seemingly impossible to the world of physics because it was a perfect circle. Outside the area was a bar. I got a Becks and sat down, pretending to be engaged in a series of emails I had received offering me Wowcher deals and the opportunity to review my own novel on Amazon.
Then in came the wonderful girls of the PR agency with whom I had received countless emails as they tried to keep the whole show on the road. They were only ever too keen to set things up, point things out and seemed to build a genuine rapport so quickly that it seemed inappropriate. They walked in amongst us like the girls of the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Disney critters fluttering between them, a choir of rose-like smells given off by their very presence. Fifteen guts were sucked in, smiles were forced, we aimed to please.
They began working their way around the circle, chatting to the writers on either side of me. I went up to get another beer. There was a strange knot of people stood to one side. Amongst them, now in a t-shirt was Terry, and with him, in a beanie hat and hefty beard was Matt Morgan. This is when I really started to freak out. There was a time, not long enough ago that I am ready to laugh about it, that my good friend Jocasta and I would sit in front of the wireless (a laptop at the end of his bed with some bodacious speakers) and listen to Matt and Russell in their 6 Music days. This was before they got over to Radio 2. It was before Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Sachs-gate and Katy Perry. It felt like they were chatting to us and we were there for them every week. Over the course of the following few days we would also download the podcasts and laugh again at their stupid comments and conversations, their between-track banter (god I hate that word) and their friendship and rapport. It was a very precious time. That’s why seeing one of them in the flesh freaked me out a bit. I had a similar incident when I saw Brand perform at the Cliffs last year and he came near me whilst on the prowl for his after-show feast.
I stood at the bar and pretended to be an actual normal human being and then scurried back to my seat with another bottle in my hand. That’s when the lovely Emma who I have been emailing decided to instigate a conversation. When I told her who I was working for she pointed along the bench at a couple of young rapscallions who were interns for my magazine. I joined them to pretend to know what I was talking about and to explain the strengths of The Mimic over conventional impressions shows. Then we got another beer.
We were ushered into the screening room where I once more shuffled past Terry and Matt, worried I was about to foul the whole thing up by letting my mask slip. I sat in the back with the most revered looking of the journalists and took out my notepad. I wrote THE MIMIC in my blotchy hand at the top of the page and then considered writing something else for over an hour.
The commissioning editor gave a short speech and then we watched the first two episodes. The strange thing about attending an event like that on your own is it feels a bit odd to laugh. Fortunately everyone else was laughing because the second series of The Mimic is even better than the first. The visual and written jokes are back, the voices have grown in quality and volume, the setup for them doesn’t feel as clunky. It’s a great show.
Afterwards everyone applauded, as you naturally have to, and there was a question and answer session. I, naturally didn’t ask anything but tried to capture a couple of the provided anecdotes in note form. As class was dismissed I ducked out again, bowing to anyone who smiled at me and leaving Victoria Wood’s pass with security, I walked back out the door and under the roaming chunks of metal that make up the structural 4 at the front of the building. I was out. I was done.

Two days later I did get to speak to Terry at length as an interview had been setup for us. This time I was prepared. I had good questions about voices and acting and things. To be fair to the man, he knows how to spin a good yarn. His anecdotes were bittersweet and brilliant, he laughed at my attempts at jokes and he even treated me to impressions of Charlie Brooker, Alan Carr and Walter White. I tweeted him which he duly favourited, the social media equivalent of a thumbs up. I will say this much, I’ve been given a glimpse of things to come and I loved it. This is just the tip of the iceberg but I’m ready to veer right for it and kill everyone on board.

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10 Things I Have Learnt Since Living Alone.

Today represents four weeks since I moved into my flat. It turns out that living alone has done some strange things to me, taught me some lessons and made me appreciate just what happens when I get stir crazy.

I treat myself like a cat.
You know how cat people like to leave a radio on so their cat doesn’t get lonely. I now leave the radio on so I don’t get lonely.

I have a lot of stuff.
I’ve blogged before about minimising possessions and being content, now I have an ironing board.

It takes a long time to get things sorted.
I’ve only got a washing machine and the Internet this week.
Paul, that’s disgusting you must be thinking, how could you go over three weeks without the Internet. I’ll tell you. I struggled.
Also, I don’t have a sofa, or a dining table, or a freezer.

Drinking alone is mandatory.
If I am ever going to pull this genius recluse thing off, I need to be drunk a lot of the time.

I’m really scared of oversleeping.
I keep finding myself waking up at 4am, worried that I have overslept. So far I’ve been really good, and I treat myself to some Cheerios.

I now say adult things.
I keep catching myself talking to people about property. Everyone has advice which is fantastic but yesterday I legitimately asked someone who did their windows. Who the fuck am I?

People who say moving house is the most stressful thing you can do clearly aren’t me
At the time of buying my flat and all the issues surrounding it I also found myself putting together the final touches on my first novel, editing the arts & cultures section for What’s Up, What’s On magazine and maintaining a full time job. I nearly fell apart like bread in a duck pond during the month.

Nobody steals my stuff.
When I lived with my family, nothing was sacred. Money, food and DVDs wandered off. Now they stay just where I left them.

I am weird.
It turns out that I will do the strangest things to entertain myself. One night while getting ready for bed I tucked my plaid shirt into my jeans, undid all of the buttons and danced for myself in front of the mirror.

I am very fucking lucky.
I don’t want any of you to think that I don’t appreciate everything that I have and everything that is going on for me at the moment. I feel very privileged. I was on my way home the other night and just thought of getting in and having dinner and watching Homeland with Kate and everything felt good. I could never imagine being in this position.

To Scotland.

I spent this weekend in the lovely city of Edinburgh. I had not been to Scotland before and I must say, it is beautiful. It represents the furthest north I’ve ever been, mostly because I’m a soft Southern shandy. I was treated to a whistle-stop tour as well as laughs and family in abundance. Prior of course to being in Edinburgh comes the flight.

It’s not so much the flying that I dislike, it’s the issues around it. Somehow I had believed you needed a passport to fly on a domestic flight so this meant insuring my youngest brother had a passport (for the first time in 6 years). This was a trek in itself, one that I will relay at some point in a novelised form.

For some reason our flight was delayed by an hour which meant the rush and duress I was put under to arrive at the airport on time came to nought. After having the contents of my overnight bag well and truly ruffled we were allowed access to the bar. This of course is the best bit about flying.
An hour later we were invited to board.
I don’t understand how it happened but the sight of the three of us got to one of the air stewardesses and she spent much of the journey gently teasing us. We tend to be treated in this way. I blame my brothers for being so darned handsome.
The flight itself was less than an hour which meant it seemed undue proximity for us to be in another country. As we headed out to the hire car collection point we kept turning our heads as accents headed back in the opposite direction. They sounded Scottish enough.
We got our car (a Vauxhall Mokka) and shot up the six miles to the city. We were due to stay with my Mum’s second cousin who none of us had seen in some time. He works as a professor of genetics at Edinburgh University, brilliantly intelligent, interesting and caring.
When we arrived I was reminded of the brownstones of New York, big old buildings with wide steps, tall doors and happy dogs in the windows. Cousin Tim was on the top floor, the penthouse if you will. He came down to meet us and then led us up the four flights of stairs to his beautiful apartment where we met his partner Megan.

Having shaken off our travels we headed out for dinner and ended up in a restaurant called Hectors’, befittingly this was the name I was given when I was just a jumbled up embryo and my parents needed a solid name to refer to me by. The food was good. The Peroni was as Peroni is anywhere.

Once our bellies were lined and we felt suitably balanced, Tim took us on a tour of his new city, having only been there since April himself. I’ve never been anywhere like it. There was so much history but it didn’t feel oppressive and overhanging like many areas of London. The streets appeared to have pushed the buildings back, kept them at bay so you could always clearly see the sky, and a sun that never seemed to want to go to bed.
After travelling the Royal Mile up to the castle and back to Holyrood Palace we sent the others back and went for a whiskey with Tim in a packed out watering hole where a bright young thing strummed through acoustic covers of songs I would always love.
We were told they had no Jura and in my panic I asked for Jamesons so our toast to Scotland was performed by Irish whiskey.
Once we had our fill we walked back, up the stairs and collapsed into our put up beds, Robb somehow getting his claim on the double while Edd and I slept on sofas in the lounge.

We awoke to the most beautiful sunshine tickling the tops of the constant chimney stacks and giving our best view yet of our host city. It looked amazing, like a toy town, too ideal to exist to scale.
After breakfast I gave Tim and Megan a copy of my new book. I liked the idea of having visited a city and leaving a part of me in it and I knew the novel would be in safe hands with the pair of them. One false start later we took off to Pitlochry to pay tribute to family and to hike through the Black Spout walk before lunch at the river where the salmon leap. Robb and I had haggis, neeps and tatties because we are bore-off tourists and that’s what you have to do.

We got back to the city centre after a short storm to try and get our fill before our evening flight. This involved buying shortbread and magnets, looking at tartan capes and considering them an actual possibility, doing bad Scottish impressions and winding each other up before heading back for another delayed flight.

I would love to have more time to experience it and I’m sure it will call me back again soon but the brief experience I did have with the people I was with suited me perfectly.

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FREE DOWNLOAD OF THE STAMP COLLECTIVE.

HI ALL,

From today you can get my new book The Stamp Collective absolutely free. This is an exclusive five day offer.

Click here for Amazon page.

If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone then please download it.
At this stage I just want to spread my writing like a fever. I want as many people as possible to share in this experience with me and you can be a part of that.
Download it now and enjoy.
Share the news.

COVERsized

The Stamp Collective Book Launch.

On Friday I held a book launch at The Alex in Southend. It was something I have wanted to do ever since I attended the amazing event that Joe Gardner held last year for his book Jet Tea. Basically I was jealous.

It turns out that hosting a book launch is bloody brilliant. You get a room full of your best and brightest friends, you get one of them to sing some lovely songs, you get another to introduce you and then everyone gets drunk on wine and high on spring rolls.
I was particularly taken with the stamp cupcakes that Kate made because she is an absolute treasure.

The book is now available on Amazon, in both paperback and as a Kindle download. From Monday it will be free to download for five days as part of a promotion. All i want is for people to read and enjoy my work. If you have a copy then please pass it along or lend it out when you are finished. If you don’t have a copy then just ask.

I would like to thank everyone who came along and give a big thumbs up to Nat for helping to save the event from being an absolute lame duck.