London Tahn….

Even at my age I’m still hustling. I have the safety blanket of wonderful agents who stand between me and the vicious world of advertising.

Somebody writes the adverts, produces them, directs them and the ‘talent’, as we’re known, deliver them onto your telly screens. Whether it’s fairy liquid, motor insurance or toothpaste, some poor chump has to look down the barrel of a lens whilst ice-skating wearing a leotard and being ecstatic over a fucking panty liner.

Now the truth is everybody from Helen Mirren to George Clooney are happy to do adverts because they pay. They pay well and if you are an actor one campaign can pay the mortgage for at least a couple of months. I’ve done my fare share of humiliating roles but on Tuesday my trip to a casting studio in Central London took the flaming biscuit.

I took the early train, and using my sat-nav walked round Oxford Street to find the ‘Friendly’ studio. A sign by the heavy door told the ‘talent’ to remain outside if they were more than five minutes early.
I entered. Having been told to come naked faced, I left my mouth lipstick free. The last time I worked a camera without make-up I was 40 years old and fully lipped.
The day before I had purchased in ‘Help The Aged’ in Tunbridge Wells, a light green synthetic polo necked sweater and an orange crocheted waistcoat to replicate Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ I had paid £16 on British Rail to look as ugly as possible, which let me tell you is not that hard anymore.
The casting crew were running late. I had to cancel three later appointments and sit in the midst of other women of a certain age waiting for my call. There were 65 year old women taking about ‘insta…’ and social media. There were 60 year old women discussing having 14 agents who paid on time for their work as walking extras. I sat between women who didn’t call themselves actors but models. By the time I was called in I was numb with the noisy, nosey women who were exchanging details and laughing all the way to the casting couch.
I, having been in the industry since 1870, knew I was snarling, knew I looked arrogant and depressed, knew that my pale sallow skin was not doing me any favours – even though I had a past proper career. My lack lustre Ruby Woo lips had stayed behind in Kent, The fluttery women had not read the brief and came cordinated and colourful with eye liner and fucking red lipstick.
I was called in. The young woman assistant told me the directer was somewhere else on Zoom. Could I say my name and agent, where I came from and could I please show both profiles and my hands – front and back.
I was told to sit sideways on a chair and snap my head back into camera.
I was told to sit straight and pretend I was on a motor bike and when the young woman shouted at me could I show surprise all slow motion.
Clearly I couldn’t as the director said he’d seen enough. I was out in four minutes. All the other prospective actresses had been in for at least half an hour and were told they had to dance.
I hung my head and walked out into Oxford Street careful not to deliberately walk under a bus.
The job was worth £18,000. Yep nearly £20 grand to sell fuck knows what.
So dischuffed was I that I bought a hot chocolate and a stale mozzarella panninni in Charing Cross.

The walk down Charting Cross Road phased me. All the shops had changed, all the people had changed. I was in Zombie town with beautiful Koreans and they babies in pushchairs. Babies playing on telephones. Fat shiny children navigating themselves with their own mobiles. Brightly lit Chinese eateries and supermarkets and sweet shops. I knew Charing Cross Road when it was full of book shops.

Last night I went to see a one woman show in Soho.
I had three too many Brandy’s and one too many Cheese and tomato baguettes and yet another hot chocolate yep I had been reduced to comfort eating..
I boarded the train, my phone on shuffle. Rachmaninoff, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan got me home by 22.03. Thank God for music.
Two days up in the big smoke and I was ready for a hot bath and a debrief.
I am no longer able to travel without my lipstick. I am no longer able to walk the streets without the tendons in my feet hurting. I am no longer able to take my industry seriously. Lets face it I am no longer able to pass for the younger version of me because I am now officially old.

This morning I had a Thai massage, closing my eyes I let the masseuse do her thing, my mind drifting back to Trafalgar Square, to Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road, to the mobile phone shops and hoards of tourists, to the traffic and rough sleepers, to the last two days. And then I thought about Samuel Johnson; ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.’ But that was then.
Fuck! I thought could that be true, have I become attached to the cows in the next field and the quiet lanes behind our pub? Am I tired of life? Of course not I’m just tired of the socially unaware youngsters who think nothing of buying a Bubble tea for a fiver and walking over my aching feet, and what may I ask is Bubble tea anyway?

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