Nil by mouth

By four o’clock today I had had enough of my own gob. No more yakking, no more voice overs, no more chit-chat. I had been at it from 7.15 a.m.
My day started with BB and I driving into Soho. We left early so that we could wander through the empty streets which always reminds me of Paris first thing in the morning. Everything lazily opens with a smattering of people sitting outside coffee shops having a morning brew.
We drove down Shaftesbury Avenue to turn right into Wardour Street, when there they were – 48 plastic cones and a barrage of metal railings. Half the street was being dug up. I turned the car round. I tried Greek Street, Dean Street, Frith Street, then Greek Street, Dean Street, Frith Street. Again, each time we were thwarted. They all went in the wrong direction round the one way system and by the time the clock had passed nine, we were suffering motion sickness from travelling in ever decreasing circles.
Eventually I made a calculated decision to try and park in Soho Square. Terrific except that now there are hardly any coin-receiving machines. By the time I had secured a parking slot, it was 9.30 and I had yet to telephone in my parking details. Voiceover studios are booked by the hour. Time is money and I seemed to be using up the valuable minutes like we had all the time in the world.

I had to be in the studio at 9.30 to record a new voiceover with a new group of people for a new ad campaign. For the second time, I called the meter-paying phone line, pressing random numbers, swearing, sighing and feeling my blood pressure hit the bell at the top of the pole.
We drove around again to see if we could get closer to the studio and maybe happen upon an ordinary meter, only to be met with more one way systems, more blocked off roads and more lost time.
Back to Soho Square where I managed to get one of the last two spots. Had we been one minute later I would have been on the floor with my legs in the air screaming blue murder.
I took a deep breath, read the instructions on the side of the parking meter, put my bank card in the slot, punched in my pin number, waited for it to be accepted, pressed the green button, waited again, and as the minutes screamed their passing, the readout provocatively said ‘Not valid’.
I put in my Marks and Spencers card. The computer sneered ‘Not valid’. BB put in her bank card. By this time, my adrenalin had been round my body four times. I could have scaled Everest using my cortisol as crampons. The readout looked us straight in the eye and spat ‘Not valid’. By this time, BB had grabbed a traffic warden. I didn’t dare look at any kind of time machine just in case BB, ever her mother’s daughter, started to lose her cool. I could see the steam coming out of her earholes. We went through the whole procedure again with the traffic warden talking us through the instructions whilst my daughter screamed ‘It won’t work. It hasn’t worked three times. Why the f*(k%$g hell do you think it’s going to work now?’
She was damn right, the computer taunted and grinned ‘Not valid’.
I ran to the other side of the square, my body flapping in the wind, and found the only existing money meter. I put in five pounds of golden coins. I could hear my daughter screaming at the traffic warden through the trees, telling him to get the damn machine fixed and why the bloody hell did we have to use cards anyway?
At 9.27am my only offspring and I sprinted through the Soho Streets, avoiding cones, coffee cups and cantankerous Chinamen. On our leisurely drive in we had been discussing the merits and demerits of jogging. She hates it. I don’t. Despite her proclivity for rowing machines and cross trainers, she now had no choice but to put one trainered foot before the other.
We arrived in D’arblay Street at 09.30 Greenwich Mean Time. BB had told me not to worry. ‘They’re always late starting these sessions’, she had predicted. She was not wrong. Workmen were knocking the ‘BeJesus’ out of the next door building so my work had been put on hold until the drillers had drilled and the knockers had knocked. One stress had been replaced by another – I had to be at the LBC studios, way over in West London, by 11.30. It was now after 10.00.
‘Anglia Home Improvements’ kept me busy until 10.35. Then BB and I legged it back to Soho Square and set off for Latimer Road.
It was a Thursday, not particularly busy, but since I was in a state of arousal by the time we got to Victoria, my concentration had all but evaporated. Yes – we got lost. Round and round the station, coach, bus and train. Now I started to lose it. I shouted, hit the steering wheel, hyperventilated. Bethy went pale and slowly chanted the 239 bus route, psychotically repeating the directions in the vain hope that it would worm its way into my brain.
‘It’s OK’, said the daughter feebly, not quite believing her own voice, ‘It’ll be okay’. I thought I was going to faint. I called LBC and said I would be late. ‘Oh, don’t worry’, they said without a care in the world, ‘It’ll be fine.’
When the mist had cleared, and I had wiped the sweat from my spectacles, I finally found Chelsea Bridge, dropped the kid in Battersea Park and drove over 31 speed bumps, my chassis groaning and my patience moaning. When I got to the last bump, it was, of course, a dead end.
My daughter couldn’t get out of the car quick enough, jammed in her earplugs, turned up her MP3 and mouthed ‘It’ll be ok’ in a placatory way. Finally she could leave her mad mother behind her.
I turned the car round sped over 31 speed bumps ignoring my chassis and arrived on the embankment. It was 11.15. Jason Button had nothing on me as I whipped through the West London Streets. I arrived at LBC at 11.45. I was so exhausted a radio programme was the furthest thing from my mind.
I had no reserves left and no resistance. The show had to go well as I hadn’t the energy to get in the way of it. I was right. It was a spiffing hour: two fitness gurus, me and a handful of lovely callers.
At 2.00pm I sped back to my flat, grabbed a bite, went to the loo, ran down the fourteen steps to my awaiting car where a beautiful Albanian driver had been booked to take me back to Soho for another voiceover. His sense of direction was not marvellous. No better than his sat-nav. He took me halfway round London and through Tirana, his capital city.
We arrived back in Soho with a few minutes to spare and with him confessing that he was used to females shouting at him since he was married to a Spanish woman. I went into the very building I had done all the ‘Heat’ ads in over the past six years, put down the voice for a new cooking programme pilot, kissed the producer and left to be met by the same Albanian – who had been waiting in the wrong street. This time we went through Belgrade, Treblinka and Kosovo. We arrived back in Battersea with only 20 minutes to go before I had to put on my glad rags and exit for the Globe.
I had just enough time to wash my hair, with shampoo that doesn’t have SLS’s in, which means it doesn’t lather. So you have to use three times as much shampoo, thus taking up twice as much time.
I drove, with my guest, to the Globe. My hair was wet but clean. We arrived just in time to organise our seats. We had complimentary tickets, hearts full of hope and a receipt for cushions, backrests and blankets which cost more than a first edition of one of Bill Shakespeare’s original manuscripts.
The blanket kept the winter chill off my feet, the backrest left wooden imprints in my backside, and the cushion fell somewhere between the seat and the balustrade. It was not the most comfortable of evenings.
By 3.30am, I had had enough of discussing acting, writing and why we didn’t get a refund for handing back our global blankets.
After four hours of kip, it was up and into meditation, into my car and into LBC for my last show. The week has flown past. It has been really good fun, and a wonderful learning curve.
On the last show we had Paul Young talking chocolate and Mitch Tonks talking fish. I ate so much chocolate that by 2.00 pm I was as high as a kite, and shaking from too much phenlythylamine.
The idiots who had planted the bomb had destabilised London, which was the desired effect, so travel was impossible. I was going to drive from Latimer Road into Soho for yet another voiceover. In the event I had to get a lift to Victoria, grab a tube to Oxford Circus, and walk. Luckily, it was all done and dusted in time for me to buy BB yet another pair of shoes.
Yesterday she got a pair of wellies. Today she got some ballet shoes to compliment them. She’s off to a castle in Welsh Wales for a 21st birthday party. She has hired a fancy outfit, all net and corsets, but because of the weather she has chosen parrot-covered wellington boots for the boggy outside and little black ballerina pumps for boggy inside. The purchases took place in a trendy shop in Carnaby Street, with me screaming down the phone, trying to describe walking attire, as yet another young, gay male pushed passed me carrying armfuls of over-priced platforms.
I got back to Victoria and boarded the bus to the flat. Then BB and I went to the SM and stocked up on sponges, tissues, and milk for Jim. Finally back, we had a night of crap telly and silence. No more talk. No more food. Nil by mouth.
I want to thank you for your terrific support over the last week and if we all cross our legs, arms, fingers and eyes, maybe LBC will ask me back, the foody pilot will be commissioned, and we’ll all be able to celebrate by getting the Albanian Taxi driver to find our way to dinner somewhere in England.
It’s 15 minutes before Jonathan Ross, so good night, good luck and CUsoon.

10 thoughts on “Nil by mouth”

  1. You relate a bloody good narrative, you know. I was out of breath just reading it! If you’ve read Stephen Kings ‘The Long Walk’ you’re buggered up by the end of the story, as though you’d walked it with Ray, it involves the reader so tightly. So did the telling of your days hurry and rush. I’m knackered sitting here with my coffee! Brilliant.
    As for the support, well you know by now that you’ve got all of us on your side for good, yeah?

  2. Gosh,Me too…I was with you all the way there Jeni,even gritting my teeth over the 31 speed bumps.Fabulous stuff,what more can one say.
    All my limbs and digits are crossed for you as we speak.
    Good Luck.
    Love Louise

  3. Oh Jeni it has been great hearing your dulcit tones again. My partner and I still really miss you and GFL, gosh grown adults and we behave like 2 year olds – all stamping feet etc! I think the idea of you taking over from Parky is excellent but I really think that, you’re so individual, there should (and must) be something created ‘just for you’ out there – something has your name written all over it!
    Have a great peaceful weekend??
    Love J -x-

  4. Must have the wrong email so I’ve resorted to this. Saw Jim at The Globe last night – he was great – the play was great – but do let me know what happened to the original Portia! Am now totally in love with the Globe, except for the seats – Owwwww! But the oysters in the bar were fab, washed down with loads of lager! Walked back over the Millennium bridge glad to be a Londoner! See you soon Jennifer Joy!

  5. I write to sing the praises of the lowly Underground. That convenience that provides fast accurate and TIMELY service to all parts of London..
    Love reading your blog. Pip Pip

  6. Well done, Jeni. The LBC week was brilliant. You ended up sounding like a radio “pro” and I’m sure you will get some more radio work from it. Are we allowed to know what the foodie pilot is called – or is it bad luck to mention it at this point? Anyway, you can put your feet up this weekend and think “good job done!”

  7. Hi Jeni,
    Everything is crossed and I am sure you will have a spot on radio and another on TV before the end of 07.
    Don’t worry! There are a few of us that write but thousands that think you are great and I am sure the “powers that be” must know what an asset you are.
    Relax and wait a couple of weeks and you will find a couple of good things will just arrive.
    Hold your head high lady.
    Chrissie x

  8. Rather you than me all that!
    Sorry I couldn’t manage hearing the last two days on LBC but will definitely keep the required digits crossed in good hope. 😀
    And um….. foody pilot…… ????

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