Now this was a fitting job for a teenager.
We must have been about 14 when my best friend’s, school friend’s, dad (yes all teenage connections are that convoluted; you know this) asked us to work for him in a warehouse. Now my best friend has a near photographic memory and would therefor be a far better person to tell this story, but as far as I remember we had to arrive in this non descript warehouse round the back of Brick Lane, I’m sure it wasn’t Brick Lane but for arguments sake lets say it was. We were told to count and bundle tacky tiaras and bracelets into packets of 20 units then pack these into boxs, basically all the job involved was counting. Not difficult, I hear you cry; unless you are three 14 year old girls and you’re alone in a room with your best friends and a radio, then counting becomes very hard indeed while you try and intersperse the actual counting with endless chatter about boys and bands and what to have for lunch not to mention the odd sing song.
One thing my best friend and I and I have always been good at is talking, when we were very little it was bickering and talking, non stop chatter whether in the back of the car on holiday, sat in our rooms, on the phone wherever (the phone in the hallway of course, we didn’t call it a landline then kids it was just ‘the phone’). There was never a pause for breath, which in retrospect must have been exhausting to the adults charged with our care. This endless chatter is a skill we have managed to hold onto for 20 years now and means there’s never been and probably never will be an awkward silence. I don’t think a single one of those boxes ended up with the right amount of items in it, only now that i’ve worked in numerous retail outlets unpacking and stock taking those fiddley, little, trinkets for myself, do I know how bloody annoying and time consuming it is when they’re all packed wrong!
I couldn’t be too pissed off though, it might have be the fault of three giggling teenagers, bored out of their tiny, gossipy minds and who in the world could begrudge them that?!
My mum was a single working mum so used to send me to a childminder who’d pick me up from school every day. My childminder was brilliant, a tiny lady with a big white van and what seemed like hundreds of kids trailing her heels. I reckon if you ask all the young professionals in north London who were born in the 80’s, half of them will credit their life skills and their first sex education lessons to chats sitting on Jan’s kitchen floor. She was and is amazing!
I must have been about 9 when one of the mothers at my childminder’s offered me the opportunity to be a character on a BBC radio play, this was my first paid acting job. I was playing Eglatyne Jebb as a child. With a little help from Google I’ve re-discovered Eglantyne was the founder of Save the Children, I’m sure I knew that then, I remember very little about the play but will never forget the name Eglantyne Jebb! Part of me is quite tempted to call my own child Eglantyne now because it’s so burned in to my memory, although then it would be shortened to Egg and that’s a terrible name to inflict on a little girl!
I loved every second of being at the BBC, especially sitting in the green room (which was blue and therefore quite confusing to a nine year old). I seem to remember getting shown how all the sound effects were made, it was all very bleak and there were lots of footsteps in the snow and howling wind noises. I was so certain as a precocious, little performer that acting was my destiny and many an Eglatyne Jebb type role would come my way, infact It was probably this job that lit the actor flame that just won’t go away no matter how old I get or how unlikely superstardom becomes.
As a kid I was convinced I was either going to be an actress, trapese artist or astronaut; sometimes I wish I’d gone with astronaut!
It was around this time my dad introduced me to Helen Sharmen, at one of his science exhibitions. Helen was, and is, the first british astronaut in space (note: not the first british woman as the press like to say, while it is true, it also suggests that legions of british men had been orbiting the globe for centuries!) I could tell even at that tender age just how impressed he was by her and could even see a little bit of him hoping I’d be so inspired that I’d beg to be signed up immediately to whatever the british version of space cadets is. If there was a british version of space cadedts in the 90’s I have a feeling it probably was a bit like scouts with lots of pasty children running around with colanders on thier heads and jumping off chairs.
Helen Sharman is still my hero and I still secretly want to be an astronaut, if I havn’t hit the big time in a couple of years do you think I’d be too old for space camp?