Monthly Archives: June 2006

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s a beautiful, beautiful Saturday here in Richmond. I’m sitting at my computer with sunlight filtering into my lounge and the room is filled with the scent of the lilac trees outside my window. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cool, I’ve just had a huge mug of hot chocolate and I’m so bloody happy I could pop!

Total Film’s latest deadline was surprisingly easy – only two late nights, if you can call 7.30pm and 8pm late – and I’ve never come off a deadline feeling so invigorated. I even went to the pub last night with my Deputy Editor and had a game of pool while we had a really nice chat; shame my pool-playing was so bad, though. I told him that next time we should play chess because I’m much better at that.

With the odd exception,* even my workload this week has been fun, down to the fact that Total Film has some cracking, and hilarious, features in the next issue. One of them, which I can’t mention here in case our competitors are reading this (though I doubt they’d bother), made me laugh so much when I first heard about it that I actually cried, right in the middle of a magazine production meeting. It’s genius, though. Genius. There are some twisted minds on this magazine and I love ’em all.

* The exception in question being two pages in our DVD section which kept coming back to me with so many corrections, alterations and niggles that in the end I wrote on the front of the proof, “Please don’t give this back to me again, it’s like I’m stuck in fecking Groundhog Day or something!”

The best thing to happen this week was the discovery that my favourite musical guru, Neil Finn, is moving from New Zealand to London for half the year because his son has just been accepted into a swanky school in Wales. His other son already lives here and plays in a great little band called Betchadupa; I really like their music and have all their albums. However, I can’t quite summon up the courage to go and see them live because I’m far too old – I can see myself standing in a corner at the venue going, “Well, it’s a good tune, but why does it have to be so loud?”

Anyway, the reason I’m blissed-out about Neil moving here isn’t because I’m going to stalk him or do anything untoward (god forbid), but because it means there’s a good chance he’ll play more gigs in the UK. And that’s the best news EVER!

Seeing Neil Finn live is right up there in my top three favourite things to do in the world. (I’d give you the other two, but one’s a bit rude and the other really isn’t any of your business… *grins*)

I got the train home from work the other night and was almost bowled over by a parade of people returning from Ladies’ Day at Ascot. The platform was a colourful sea of fancy hats and pretty dresses, men in grey top hats and waistcoats, with most of the women teetering unsteadily on their heels after one too many glasses of champers. As I climbed onto my train I heard one woman yelling to her friend, “Maggie’s had a lovely day, even though she don’t remember none of it!” And then the woman known as Maggie hiccupped for my entire journey. Ah, the upper classes. So frightfully posh, eh what?

By the way, I have to end this entry on a sad note: Aaron Spelling died this morning. He gave the world Dynasty, Starsky And Hutch and Sunset Beach – among other fabulous creations – and I honestly think if I hadn’t grown up watching his shows, my life today would be very different.

“He’s probably busy explaining that to St Peter right now,” Biddy texted me earlier.

I’m still not sure if she meant to write “explaining” or “apologising”.

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Ducked Off. (Except not really.)

Earlier today I really offended a duck.

I think I also pissed off a heron.

Remember, guys, when you feed the birds (in my case, next to Richmond Bridge on a Sunday afternoon), don’t throw your bird seed at them so hard that it hits them on the beak and causes to them to swim away, quacking in disgust.

And make sure you don’t feed a heron food it doesn’t want to eat: they like fish, not sunflower seeds. Man, those birds sure know how to give you the evil eye!

I’m about to hit another deadline (although deadlines always feel as though they hit me, usually with a brick). Until then, I’m enjoying myself this evening with a pile of Lost episodes – including the season two finale – and I may rewatch a couple of episodes of Supernatural for good measure. The first season finale of that show is on TV tonight and it’s a doozy. I may watch it again. Not that I’m obsessed with it right now, no sirree, not me! You must have me mixed up with that girl who got the actors’ autographs the other day and still hasn’t stopped going, “Squeeee!”

(And because I really can’t stop talking about Supernatural, anyone who’s watched the series will know that the only way you can stop a ghost or a demon entering your house is to sprinkle salt around all the doors and windows to keep it out. Rock salt is preferable. I found a packet of rock salt in my kitchen cupboard the other night and called Biddy to giggle about it – yes, I’m easily amused. She pointed out that I could now line all my doors and windows with it as a precautionary measure.

“Oh, except for my kitchen skylight,” I replied, continuing the joke. “There’s no way to pour salt around that.”

“In that case, you can sprinkle salt by your kitchen door instead, so they’ll be trapped in your kitchen,” Biddy observed, helpfully. “Although that does mean that if demons ever invade your house, you won’t be able to make a cup of tea.”

Man, I love the way her brain works.)

I haven’t really got much to write about right now, unless you give a toss about me going to a French fair in Barnes last Sunday (it smelt of cheese) or the fact that I’ve seen two films this week, neither of which I can review here for embargo reasons. For the record, one was Adrift (think Open Water: idiots jump off yacht in the middle of the sea for a swim, then realise they can’t get back on board… ouch) and the other was Jack Black’s latest, a Mexican wrestling movie named Nacho Libre. I saw that one on Monday morning with my Deputy Editor and boy, what a great start to the week! Beats being at my desk, anyday.

Oh, and I also owe a public apology to Gillen for ruining the big surprise in issue two of Civil War. It’s not every day Spider-Man’s in the news and I really thought you’d already heard. Sorry again, mate…

Something major DID happen this week, though. Something rather amazing concerning a children’s author named Victoria Walker, two books that have been out of print for 30 years and a very nice man called Neil Gaiman… but it’s all too long to detail here. If you’re feeling curious, he mentioned it in his blog entry for 15 June. Go here to check it out: http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/

I was rather happy about it all. I will be writing more when I can get my head around the whole thing. At the moment I just feel as though someone’s taken my karma and sprinkled it with gold dust.

To sum up: you know the bit in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy when the miserable android, Marvin, glumly says, “Life? Don’t talk to me about life.”

Well, my life at the moment is the exact reverse of that. Life? I bloody love it!

Even if there is a duck out there holding a grudge against me.

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A Day In The Life…

I really thought when I started this blog that I’d use it as a diary, but I haven’t. Instead I’ve just been writing up the high (or low) points of my week and forgetting about everything else. Thinking back over the last eight months, I can see I’ve left a lot of things out; stuff like a few Mighty Boosh concerts, another Bic Runga gig, all the times I have friends staying or I visit them… the list goes on. I also don’t write about every film I go to see. I never mentioned Brick or X-Men 3, for example, and I have no intention of discussing The Lake House, the film I saw last night. (Although I will point out that if you ever get the chance to go to the cinema and watch a movie in a red leather armchair after having free drinks beforehand, please do. Sometimes being a film reviewer is rather classy.)

Anyway, in an attempt to add a bit more detail to this blog, I chose a random day in May and kept copious notes of everything I did at work. Lord knows if anyone cares, but I thought it would be a good example of what I do for a living. Please note that we don’t usually have so many computer problems on an average day at Total Film; and I’ve also kept out both the names of my co-workers and anything I really shouldn’t write about for security reasons. Which makes my office sound rather more important than it probably is…

Okay, here goes:

8.45am Get train to work. Sit next to a woman who talks loudly and indiscretely on her mobile phone about a complicated court case; the folder on her lap says she works for English Heritage. Hate her for some inexplicable reason. But then, I hate everybody in the morning.

9.40am Get into work. Make coffee. Find someone’s been drinking my milk. Write them a nasty note and leave it inside the fridge. Great start to the day. Am already aggravated by a note on the fridge from another theft victim stating, “I can’t believe someone would literally steal food from their co-worker’s mouth!” Which makes no sense, because to “literally” steal food from their co-worker’s mouth they’d have to reach in and grab it as they were chewing. I hate people who use “literally” all the bloody time. I’d like to get literal with them.

9.54am Check emails. Tell next week’s work experience candidate how to get here and that our dress code isn’t fancy, it’s “come as you are”. Point out that doesn’t mean they should turn up naked.

10.05am My Editor was up until 2am last night reading proof pages for the issue we’re working on. Start doing his amends on the InDesign documents. He spotted a few new style hiccups (too complex to explain here), so I tell him I’ve been trying to keep all the pages uniform but it’s a huge job: a bit like battling the Kraken from Clash Of The Titans, except without a flying horse and a clockwork owl.

10.10am Wonder why I’m thinking about Clash Of The Titans at ten past ten in the morning and whether my boss now thinks I’m a bit bonkers.

10.21am Ask a colleague for the outstanding copy he owes me. “Can I do it this afternoon?” he asks, plaintively. “I have to work out the charts and I can’t do maths at this time of the morning.” I give him one hour.

10.25am Email goes down. There is much swearing.

10.31am Somebody asks me where the toner is for the printer. I get asked this question every single bloody day, even though I made Computer Services move the printer away from my desk. One day I will shove the toner up somebody’s bottom. Oh, and it’s right next to the printer, okay?

10.35am Proof-read our latest cover. It looks great! Cheer up (and wake up) at last.

10.57am Have a discussion by the coffee machine about new Disney movie The Wild. Realise I want to see The Lion King again. I love Timone.

11.45am Have a phone conversation with somebody in Ads about their terrible toothache.

12.15pm Editor wants to change the picture caption on our review of The Da Vinci Code; it references TV show Murder, She Wrote. I think it’s really funny and try to talk him out of it.

Conversation ends with him declaring loudly, “I would never object to Jessica Fletcher!” Our neighbours, Metal Hammer magazine, stare at him in a strange way.

12.27pm Realise I’ve been gazing at my desktop wallpaper picture of Jensen Ackles for at least a minute, completely hypnotised by his eyes. Then I notice he looks a bit like my mate Keir and it freaks me out.

1.00pm Go to lunch with my friend David. Opt for a walk around Regents Park; sky opts to rain on us. Return to work thoroughly soaked, but at least we saw some ducks.

2.15pm Hear much excited discussion behind me. A colleague calls out, “Jayne, do you want to join our World Cup sweepstake?”

“Only if I can have Brazil,” I reply.

“Oh, um, it doesn’t work like that. You have to pick two teams out of a hat and if either of them win you get £30.”

“There’s money involved? I’m in!”

2.18pm Last few minutes spent writing the names of footie teams on bits of paper, screwing them up and dropping them in a box. The draw begins. I get France and the Ukraine. Office filled with people yelling, “What did you get?” We all bet that the one member of the team still on lunch will come back and whinge that he wasn’t around for the draw.

2.27pm Missing teammember returns and whinges that he wasn’t around for the draw.

2.33pm Someone randomly yells, “Come on Italy!”

2.34pm My colleague emails me a picture of Shevchenko from the Ukraine team so I know my teams have at least one good player. Am peculiarly touched by his thoughtfulness.

2.35pm Hear someone muttering, “I can’t believe a fucking woman got Brazil.” Our Picture Editor grins to herself.

2.42pm Possibly in protest at all the footie talk, the music played by neighbouring Metal Hammer gets louder.

2.50pm Colleague from Ads turns up and shows me her toothachey tooth. It’s not pretty.

3.02pm Someone begs, “No more Cannes stories, please!” The teammember just returned from the French film festival looks a bit sulky.

3.05pm Editor calls me to say he’s in the pub with “some guy” but will be back soon. We have a conversation about who “some guy” is. We never do find out. I reckon he was selling our souls to the Devil so we could hit our next deadline.

3.15pm Computer fileserver keeps crashing, but at least our emails are back after being on and off all day.

3.16pm Email goes down.

3.17pm Notice our freelance sub has had his earphones on for hours. Suspect he doesn’t like Metal Hammer’s music very much.

3.25pm Print out PDFs for ages. Which means nothing to you, I know, but I do a lot of it. Suspect I’m the one who uses up all the toner.

3.52pm Metal Hammer’s music is now so loud I need to go to the toilet.

4.05pm Someone randomly yells, “Come on Togo!” Then, after a moment, adds: “Where the fuck IS Togo? Does anybody want to swap with me?” Nobody does.

4.10pm Visit our stationery section and grab some coloured highlighter pens. Get a hot chocolate from the coffee machine on the fourth floor while I’m up and around. Any bloody excuse…

4.20pm Sort out schedules for upcoming issues. I hate doing this. I’m a little bit number dyslexic and I’m terrified I’ll write down the wrong number and we’ll all think our deadline is two weeks later than it actually is. Break out in a cold sweat.

4.40pm A regular occurrence: someone’s written a three-star film review but it reads like a four-star review. Discussion ensues, hindered by the fact nobody else has seen the film.

4.47pm A moment of power: I get to final-approve the next Total Film cover! Which just involves pressing a button, but hey, it’s still cool.

4.50pm Quick meeting with News Editor.

4.58pm Talk to Editor about the flatplan. Change things round; quite enjoy it. Until two pages mysteriously disappear. Have to start again. Poohsticks.

5.10pm Our freelance sub still has headphones on. I decide I quite like Metal Hammer’s music and prefer it to Total Film’s. Can also hear the music from nearby DJ magazine, which means I can hear three lots at the same time. Unsurprisingly, I often get headaches.

5.20pm In the course of checking facts on one of our pages I have to look up the spelling for the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. If somebody had told me I’d be doing this for a living when I was at school, I’d have died of joy. And then wondered why my 34-year-old self has forgotten how to spell ‘Stay-Puft’.

5.58pm Someone on Metal Hammer picks up a guitar and starts singing. Time to go home.

6.00pm Leave. It’s still raining. Take my colleague’s Masters thesis with me to proof over the weekend. (The next week she gives me flowers to say thank you. Aww!)

7.05pm Arrive home. Collapse in front of the TV. Watch my ninth episode of Top Gear that week and can’t believe how much I love it. “This car is shaped like a dog doing a poo!” says Jeremy Clarkson, who is now my hero. Still can’t remember the names of any of the cars, though.

11.37pm Go to bed. Realise, much too late, that I’ve been duped into actually caring about the World Cup thanks to our sweepstake.

12.30am (ish) Sleep. Dream of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man playing football.

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