I am back on the BBC! They liked my story about the “drastic” and “shocking” cuts to prison drug treatment at a time when even the Prisons Minister says the drugs situation in English prisons is “unacceptable” so much that it was headlining the news. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
My writing about addiction and mental health for national newspapers is having a major impact! A Cross party Parliamentary group of UK MPs is to meet on July 12th to discuss my latest Guardian investigation – massive funding cuts for drug and alcohol treatment which is leading to deaths. http://ow.ly/sCJ030czKgt
Another exclusive groundbreaking story was for the Times showing the levels of alcohol related brain damage among older people had gone up by more than 300% https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5
And for the Sunday Times on the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Priory and extent of suicides at the UK’s largest private mental health provider. The Priory said the two were unconnected. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp
I have also written about domestic violence and abuse for the Telegraph with harrowing case studies http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/
Please send me exclusive story ideas about mental health and addiction that have not been covered before by national media. I am now working on stories for BBC Radio as well as the Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Times and the Telegraph
This return to professional journalism at 12 years clean is welcome after crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005.
Thank you for supporting my blog without which this return to professional journalism would never have happened.
After crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005 I am now, at 12 years clean, a professional journalist again! I have written reports about mental health and addiction for the Sunday Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp The Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5 the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/ I also have upcoming commissions for the Guardian and several ideas for the BBC!
Thank you for all your support for my blog.
At last I have made some money from writing! This is the first time I have been paid to write for my entire twelve year recovery. It is true that I have only recently started trying to resurrect my freelance journalism career, buoyed by the success of the blog. In the first year of the blog I had more than 30,000 hits. The piece, for the Sunday Times News Review, was about my quest for a husband at the Tory Party Conference. Alas I did not find one but I did find a career. I now want to become an MP so I can get my dream job of being the Minister of Addiction and Mental Health. Of course I crashed out of my journalism career at the beginning of 2005 because of my rampant cocaine addiction, bulimia and general loopiness and ended up in rehab for 5 years. My C.V. simply refers to this period as “lost in rehab” which is better than “Only sane patient at the Prison View psychiatric unit (in my own head at least)” All this will now be chalked down to “research” for my future job.
I have created a “news agency” of mental health and addiction news so I can select stories to pitch to the newspapers. I am also very much getting up to speed on all aspects of mental health. And I plan to apply for funding for my idea to help everyone who goes into a doctor’s surgery with a mental health or addiction problem in the New Year. I am also preparing my application to stand as a councillor for the Conservative Party. There is a section on the form where they say “Is there anything about you that could be an embarrassment to the Party?” Let’s hope they don’t read about my previous 22 hour a day cocaine addiction or experiences such as “Being seduced by a (female) teenage stripper who’d killed someone the week before (and then stole my car).” I will simply say on the application form “I am open about the fact that I am in (long term) recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.”
Anyway I am taking a bit of a break from the blog and have resolved to only write something when I have something interesting to say. Now the Referendum is over, as is my hobnobbing with the Prime Minister and Mayor of London, that is less often than before. Mr Right has tragically gone from my life making him just another Mr Unavailable. But this first paycheck for my writing in twelve years could not be missed out. I will keep you posted on what happens in my writing career and non-existent love life in the next few weeks. Actually I have a man staying in my house for the weekend, unfortunately in my lodger’s room not mine. But after no man overnight in my house for many years I am hoping the unaccustomed male energy will shift my luck with men.
Sarah Savitt, deputy head of feminist publisher Virago and former publishing director at Headline, one of the most successful commercial imprints in the UK, said my blog was “definitely enjoyable to read” as it was “funny, fast paced and interesting.” She recommended making changes to the blog, which I’ve now turned into a memoir, so that is has greater “focus” and “structure.” She gave me three pages of feedback on the memoir and recommended I read nine successful recent memoirs and analyse them technically to see how they tell their story.
I am now doing this starting with best sellers “Mad Girl”by Bryony Gordon which also talks about OCD, bulimia, cocaine addiction and journalism and “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig which deals with depression and anxiety. She said there were “many themes” in my memoir “from class and privilege and race (people constantly asking where you’re from) to mental health to your mother’s abuse to drugs and sex.” She said I need to “choose one or two things to focus on and weight the book towards those themes.” She said that it is difficult for people who are not famous to get memoirs published but that those that are published and “break out” and become successful have this particular focus. After I’ve read the 9 memoirs I am going to start a re-write of mine.
I’m also starting a freelance journalism course in October to try to resurrect my freelance journalism career and raise the profile of my writing. I may do a course on memoir as well. The agent didn’t work out but given that the publisher said the blog needed a major rewrite to make it commercially viable this may be why.
The search for Mr Right continues of course unsuccessfully. I’ve been on a few dates but haven’t fancied them. I’ve signed up to various Conservative party events (I grew scales and a tail before the last General Election and was, alarmingly, diagnosed as a Tory) to try to network and meet an ethnic Tory Mr Right. I did go to an event on Wednesday and met an attractive ethnic Tory but he was only 21.
The big change on the home front is that as I am now almost completely recovered from the OCD and broken my ban on having anyone to stay in my house over the summer I am going to get a lodger. This will bring in useful extra income as well as give me someone to discuss world current affairs with. Of course due to my bisexual tendencies the search for a lodger has been fraught with problems. I was worried about fancying the prospective male lodgers who came along but it was actually a gorgeous Iranian woman with arresting green eyes who made me swoon. Obviously I couldn’t say “you’re too sexy to move in” so I just told her an elephant was moving in instead.
I now have the assistant to a Member of Parliament moving in who is very bright and interested in politics and crucially, given my previous campaigning for Britain Stronger in Europe, pro-European. All the lodgers were quizzed on their Brexit views and any prospective pro-Brexit people were executed.
In preparation for the lodger I am de-cluttering my house going through every cupboard and throwing out junk and the fifty tonnes of paperwork I’ve accumulated since I started writing my first novel in 2009. Before the viewings by the lodgers every inch of floor space was covered in reams of paper from various re-writes of the novel and the blog and a rhino that I’d brought back from Sudan was watching my telly. I’ve now thrown out a hundred bags of rubbish which are sitting in my front garden rather optimistically waiting for the bin men to take them away. I’ve got so much excess paper I could actually start a re-cycling plant in my home. The rhino is claiming asylum due to the civil war in Sudan so is now living on my roof terrace.
As part of my new political activities I went to the Conservative Women’s Organisation summer party on Thursday. I was worried that everyone might be white but in fact half of them were ethnic minorities showing that I am not the only ethnic minority in London who votes Conservative. Though curiously when I see black supporters of Donald Trump paraded in front of the cameras at his speeches I think “you are a traitor to your race.” I can see that some black people in dying former industrial towns in the United States may warm to the Trump message. But in the UK it is aspirational ethnic minorities who vote Conservative. Now I look Jamaican with my natural hair obviously everyone thinks I’m a Labour party supporter.
After coming out on Facebook as a Tory earlier this year I will be revealing myself on the national media by attending the Conservative Party Conference in October. This is not just an attempt to network and further my political career but also crucially to find a husband. But my chat up lines will not be the bog standard “do you come here often” but the rather more focused “what do you think about Brexit?”
Next blog post – Finding a husband at the Conservative Party Conference (or should I be looking for a career?)
Day 1. Disastrous date as having spent an hour getting ready and hours getting there when I saw him I realised he’d put up an old photo and was now, unfortunately, bald. As I love thick dark hair on men this meant that the date was a waste of time. He also didn’t have the scintillating intellect I was looking for. He obviously liked me and tried to kiss me as we said goodbye but I evaded his advances. Having only fancied one man I’ve met online this date was a turning point. Never again, I resolved, would I go on a date with someone before I was sure what they looked like now. I would insist on Skyping them first. This would not only weed out those who’d put up a super flattering photograph but also stop me getting so wildly excited by the photographs that I’d married them, had their children and planned the entire education of the child before we’d even met.
Day 2. I put this plan into action. A man I was due to meet the following day had only put up one photograph on the dating website. I texted him to say I was reluctant to meet based on one photograph and wanted to Skype instead. He said he didn’t like Skype but would send me some extra photographs. A flurry of photographs followed but when I looked at them I wasn’t sure I fancied him at all. Mr Dangerous and Unavailable (former drug dealer) was at my Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous meeting that night looking suitably dark and hot. I told him he couldn’t move in with me as a lodger as I fancied him too much. His response was “I’m unavailable.”
Day 3. I didn’t get back to the non-Skype online man till the following morning saying I wanted to meet by which time he’d changed his mind and pulled out of the date because he said I was giving “mixed messages.” I had been slightly put off by the fact that he had been texting me every day as I thought this was too keen. Also he didn’t sound as intelligent on the phone as Mr Right (now after he’s dumped me Mr Unavailable) from Britain Stronger in Europe. But as this new guy was now unavailable and had rejected me I was therefore desperate to meet him. It is clear that I am threatened by the prospect of a relationship with a man who is actually available. Having had over 30,000 hits on the blog, which I’ve now turned into a memoir, on WordPress and a US addiction website, I had received an exciting full manuscript request from an agent. So instead of going on the date sat at home finishing the memoir instead. The first half of the memoir is already with a top publisher so I should know within the next two weeks whether it has commercial potential.
Day 4. More work on the memoir as I ruminated over my never ending attraction to men who are dangerous or unavailable. As I have recovered from OCD, bulimia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, clinical depression and drug and alcohol addiction this is my only remaining mental health problem. I resolved I would throw my weight towards breaking this barrier which was keeping me alone and would hurl my entire recovery tool box at it.
Day 5. I went to an all day “dating workshop” organised by dating website Guardian Soulmates. Of course I hoped that this would give me an opportunity for face to face contact with hot men on their website. Maybe I would meet an available Mr Right who I was actually interested in. When I got there there were 500 women and 3 men. But the men were very attractive, tall and dark and I wondered if I would be able to fight through the throngs of women to speak to them. The dating guru who took the workshop said it was vital to “create opportunities” by going up to people you fancied in public places and trying to get their phone number. Of course I’d been able to do this very successfully when I was working for Britain Stronger in Europe as I had the excuse of asking them to “help with my campaign.” I resolved I would put this advice into action and approached two men I fancied in the interval. One gave me his phone number but spent the entire conversation eyeing up a busty blonde and the other said “I’m not looking at the moment.” Clearly my unavailable men antennae were fully functioning. I learned a lot from the workshop in particular the earth shattering news that it was necessary to “give” to a man. My primary interest in men before had been what they can do for me. I left the workshop resolved to put this new giving into action.
Day 6. I decided that every day I would do at least one nice thing for someone else. As I was already looking after my friend Susanna’s hamster for the summer (which was easy as it had become confused in my house and gone into hibernation) this meant at least one other thing per day. I posted this on Facebook specifying that it did not mean sleeping with various random men who hassle me on Facebook. Since the referendum when I felt I was positively influencing the future of the country, albeit unsuccessfully, I have decided I want to “make a difference” in the area of mental health. I have come up with an idea for a “mental health survival kit” which could help everyone who goes into a doctor’s surgery with a mental health or addiction problem get extra support and strengthen their recovery. My local NHS trust and my doctor think it is a very good idea. And I recently had my first job interview for my entire 11 year recovery, to discuss the project. Unlike my job interviews at the BBC I was on time and didn’t have to invent any imaginary bombs on the tube to explain my delayed arrival.
Day 7. I went to a pro-European meeting trying to unite all the various groups that had split off from Britain Stronger in Europe since the Referendum campaign. I was of course interested in what these groups had to say but also thought it would be an ideal opportunity to meet a politically compatible Mr Right. There were two men I fancied there who I did speak to despite or perhaps because of their youth. But one of them I had met previously and not fancied as he was too white. As he didn’t look like the type who would be keen on winter sunbeds I thought I would give it a miss. The White Man Apocalypse seems to be on me in full force and I only find dark men attractive.
Day 7. Things were hotting up on Elite Singles and I was getting multiple messages every day. This accelerated sharply after I actually started logging on after ignoring the website for 3 months. I resolved to put my new plan in action and insist on Skyping first. The reaction to this from many of the men was extremely hostile telling me to fuck off. But after a while I realised there was a particular way to phrase it that would make them more keen on Skype. I also decided I would wear my bikini for the conversations.
Day 8. I tested this out with my first online Skype interview. Although the picture was fuzzy I could immediately see that he had put up an incredibly flattering photo on the website that didn’t really look like him. I also recoiled at his anti-European Union views. I have pretty much decided I cannot date someone who is pro-Brexit.
Day 9. I went to Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous where I revealed my intensive plan to combat my attraction to men who are dangerous and unavailable. I would, as recommended by the dating guru at the workshop, do breathing exercises with positive affirmations around dating and relationships as well as self-esteem. Although I might not believe them at first if I repeat “I will not turn into a clingy two year old who calls my boyfriend mummy” often enough it might actually sink in. I would also pray, I’m not sure to what as I don’t know whether I believe in God, that my attraction to unavailable men be lifted and that my inner child’s desire to heal the relationship with my father who abandoned me be removed. It is this that is behind my incessant attraction to unavailable men. I would also go on a health blitz, cutting down on caffeine and trying to do yoga to help me sleep in an effort to cut down on my psychiatric medication.
Day 10. At a meeting with my new co-sponsor in Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous I set out a series of positive actions I would try to do every day to get me out of the dating quagmire. One of these, which I’m totally unable to do due to Catholic indoctrination from my mother, is regular masturbation. She showed me a website which had a series of rather utilitarian looking vibrators which she promised would “wake me up.” My sex drive is even more dormant than the hibernating hamster as its been bludgeoned on the head by all my psychiatric medication. I explained that I was terrified of waking my sex drive up, without a partner, as what would happen if I suddenly got out of control and had to shag someone? The reality is that not having a partner and being, as I now realise, chronically avoidant and sexually anorexic I love not having a sex drive. She said I’d better try to find one pretty damn quickly if I wanted to have a relationship and should perhaps look into cutting down on my psychiatric medication.
Day 11. I tried to put my new yoga plan into action but alas after an hour and a half of yoga was bored shitless and practically fell asleep. This did give me the idea that I could do the yoga at night instead of a sleeping pill. Disastrous date with the once evil now reformed Vicomte de Valmont, who I was previously obsessed with and have been avoiding for 5 years. I became very upset after he referred to a (white) friend of his as “wog” a derogatory term for black people. He then said “everyone is racist.” I realised I was so upset as anyone posh and racist reminds me of my father who after he left my Jamaican mother would take the piss out of Jamaicans and say black people were “different” as they “had a different pelvis shape.” I practically burst into tears and resolved I could not date him. This meant that every opportunity to date a man I actually know in real life was closed to me and only online was available.
Day 12. Wild excitement as I get an email from an agent (one hour after phone prayer session with hot Priest I wanted to marry) saying that he likes the memoir, which I’d sent him only three days before and that he wanted to see the novel. He sounded interested in taking me on and this is the closest I’ve got to an agent yet. Started reading the novel, whose two central characters are based on my ex-armed robber boyfriend and me, which I hadn’t looked at for a year. Decided that the novel needed quite a bit more work and that I would edit it and send it in 10 days. Texted and emailed the Vicomte de Valmont, whose mother is a literary agent, and my therapist with the email I proposed to send to the agent. Was touched that Valmont took time out of his busy work schedule to read my email and text me his thoughts.
Day 13. As the Vicompte has looked after me have wild fantasies at the gym that he is my new “mummy.” Quite how this squares with him freely admitting he is racist I don’t know. I really thought I had got over the desire to find a replacement mummy and confess this relapse to my therapist. Although he helps me again that afternoon with my email the wild fantasies about him being mummy seem to subside. I immerse myself in the novel, which needs a lot of work, hoping that the agent will think it has potential and take me on. The next time I write this blog I may be a professional writer!
Day 65. Wild excitement as speak to hot guy from Elite Singles who phones me saying he is desperate to speak to me. Turns out he is an Oxford graduate, running a hedge fund and lives in Prime Central London Belgravia. Not only perfect boyfriend material but perfect sperm donor. Also he says he was a computer hacker and hacked into banks as a teenager. This thrills me as I still have a soft spot for criminals due to relationship with ex-armed robber. He becomes a bit nervous when I say he can’t read the blog (no way is any prospective suitor going to be let loose on this collected mass of insanity before they have even met me). But still says he wants to meet me the next day. Have to keep expectations down though as fact is have not fancied a single man I’ve met off the internet.
Day 66. Worst day ever with the online dating. Spent four hours getting ready for hot date (to artfully contrive “just got out of bed look”) with Oxford graduate. Alas when I popped into venue saying I was struggling to park he looked very different from his photo and did not fancy him at all. Must have given him a “who the fuck are you?” look as when got back after parking he had disappeared and was studiously avoiding my texts and phone calls. May have to retire from online dating as was so wild with excitement before meeting but now feel catatonic.
Day 67. Have made radical decision to decouple search for Mr Right from search for sperm donor. Will find sperm donor first and though controversial will go to Crete to have sex selection and create female frozen embroyos. Look up California sperm bank where have look alikes of film stars and resolve to call them asap. Also have secret interview with prospective sperm donor (secret because he has no idea) who friend from Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous has introduced me to. He is very intelligent but does have a receding chin..
Day 68. Go to Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous in Notting Hill obviously in search of man. Had eye on hot secretary last time I was there although he has blue eyes. But when he turns up his tan has faded and he looks too white for me. Another very dark man does catch my eye but he seems to be dating perfect blonde Barbie who is nuzzling his ear. Still spot other prospective men and resolve I will be back. For no reason kiss man as am trying to speak to hot dark guy next to him which leaves him rather confused.
Day 69. Reluctantly vote for Zac Goldsmith, Conservative Candidate for London mayor, because the Labour contender Sadiq Khan is apparently threatening rent control on private landlords ie me. This anti-landlord bias is why I can’t stand Labour. But feel very squeamish as Zac has run pretty divisive campaign saying Sadiq is an Islamic extremist and trying to set Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims. After voting, go to Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous in Notting Hill, obviously looking for man. Do spot one very hot guy in crowd but cannot quite stay off phone organising dates with people from Inner Circle and Elite Singles. Amazingly put recovery first and talk to a newcomer female who has eating disorder and OCD after meeting. No luck in the men department.
Day 70. I am now full on political activist and main organiser for Britain Stronger In Europe (campaigning for Britain to stay in EU) for my enormous local borough, Brent.
Go to Stronger In phone bank in Moorgate in the City of London to rustle up volunteers for events in my local area. Obviously also looking for politically switched on Mr Right. Alas, white man Apocalypse descends again and I don’t fancy anyone. Will seriously have to consider emigrating to Southern Italy or Greece to find ethnic looking Mr Right as 90% of men in England are not my cup of tea. There are serious problems with our proposed speaker tour of my local area as we had planned to have local resident and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone as our star speaker. Unfortunately after he said, and refused to retract, the fact that Hitler was a Zionist he is now too toxic for us to touch.
Day 71. I have had disastrous dates before but not actually ones where I feared for my personal safety. Met someone whose identity I will have to disguise in case they stick a knife in my back. He was very attractive but it became evident, as the date progressed, that this was in an American Psycho Patrick Bateman kind of way. He was involved with so many conflicts with politicians and the police and had such elaborate conspiracy theories about people being planted in his flat by secretive enemies that I almost offered him a dose of my anti-psychotics. I said after an hour that I would have to leave as his life was “too complicated” for me. He said 100% correctly that he had scared me and that I was running away. Spent whole journey back home looking over my shoulder in case he was following me.
Day 72. A joyous OCD day! Spent whole day locked up in my house not seeing anyone or even opening the front door. When the OCD was on me and I had to do crazy rituals 10 hours a day this was the only type of day I enjoyed.
Day 73. As part of efforts to re-start freelance journalism career went down to library in Kensington to read several weeks worth of newspapers. Noticed a lot of incredibly good looking dark men on Kensington High Street (probably Arabs who are living there) which was incredibly annoying as I didn’t have any makeup on. Resolved must spend more time in Kensington as part of quest for Mr Right. If only parking wasn’t so difficult!
Day 74. Back down to Kensington Library again to read more newspapers. Man hunt was unsuccessful as was pouring with rain and I had my gym stuff and no makeup on. Pointlessly put on loads of makeup as went to Ladbroke Grove Sainsburys. Although there was a very good looking Arabic guy he was extremely young and rather short.
Day 75. Date with man who lives near Sloane Square in Chelsea who’d been on £10,000 holiday. Was pretty sure would not fancy him as his face in the photos had a slightly froggy look. But actually had a fabulous conversation about politics (must get politically interested man) and decided he had a nice face. But of course, in common with all online dating, did not fancy him.
Day 76. I discover from my research that there are record numbers of women having their first child over 40 and decide I will use this as a news peg for a feature to relaunch my journalism career. I was previously a correspondent for the BBC, the Sunday Times and the Guardian before crashing out of my career in Jamaica due to my cocaine addiction and mental health problems. My career has been dead for 11 years which will take some world beating efforts at resuscitation. But now I have had almost 23,000 hits on the blog and am 11 years clean and in recovery from all my mental health problems, I have the confidence to try. Tea with cousin Miranda (one of only two members of my family I am actually speaking to) in which I discuss the over 40 story. Then rush to Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous in Notting Hill, obviously looking for man. Only spot one Arabic looking guy but he is very young and wearing white trainers so might be in the ex-armed robber faction of the fellowship.
Day 78. Start doing interviews with leading fertility experts as part of the over 40 1st time mothers story. Another angle I want to work in to the story, which will allow me to do a comic diary similar to the blog, is why virtual babies, which cry repeatedly at 3am in the morning and need to be “fed” “changed” and “soothed” are not available to older first time mothers. This comes after a Titanic struggle to get hold of a virtual baby in the UK which ultimately fails. As someone who has 9 hours sleep and rolls out of bed at 9.30am I genuinely want the virtual baby to see if I can cope with a child. Spend the whole evening frantically phoning all Brent volunteers for Britain Stronger in Europe events at the weekend. Alas having organised whole political meeting around which volunteers I fancy could come, call hottest volunteer, perfect boyfriend and sperm donor and find out he is abroad.
Day 79. Meet a close friend who I have had a falling out with and been avoiding because of her crazy behaviour around men. She tells me her wildly unsuitable boyfriend has hit her again and tried to strangle her. Am so terrified that something terrible is going to happen to her that I feel sick and I have to call psychiatric crisis line for the first time in 2 years.
Day 80. Feel calmer but tell friend I will not be in contact with her this week as I try to relaunch journalism career. Have multiple conversations with friend from Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous about how to talk to newspaper people. He says I should delete the blog as newspaper people will think I am crazy if they read it. I refuse to take down the blog. After numerous desperate requests on Facebook I have finally got hold of a Virtual Baby from eBay in the United States. I get card from Hermes (crap courier company) saying she has been left behind the bin. I rescue her from the bin. Obviously I had to have a female virtual baby due to obsession with having little girl.
Day 81. D day with the virtual baby and the virtual babies story. I unpack the virtual baby study the instructions and set the baby to demo which is supposed to be easy to care for. Baby starts shrieking every 5 minutes necessitating constant attention.
As every phone call I make to newspapers about the virtual baby story is interrupted by the howling of the virtual baby herself I realise a crucial fact: it is not possible to work while you are looking after a baby. After 2 hours of interruption I cheat and remove the electronics box and batteries from the virtual baby. The baby will be kept on silent until I get a commission to do the story. Am amazed at my confidence as I cold call the newspapers and get some positive interest in the story.
Day 82. I am on a tight rope wire as it seems there is a lot of interest in the story. I send through various facts and figures but have to be patient and wait. My interest in the online dating has totally expired and I haven’t logged in to any sites for ages.
Day 83. Go to Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous in Notting Hill obviously looking for man. Fortune favours the bold so I shamelessly approach two men I might fancy after the meeting. One is the blue eyed secretary who I thought was too white but actually realise is very hot. Not sure his economics would add up to large expense of child but will am definitely interested in exploring further….
Day 84. Day of heart attack inducing stress as I try to juggle spending whole day doing Britain Stronger in Europe work with blogging and continued search for Mr Right. Decide to go into Stronger In phone bank (although really don’t have time) in quest for politically switched on man. The coordinator of Stronger In is very dark and rather attractive but alas too short. Start wondering how I can find out if secretary for Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous is single and whether, by any chance, he want to parent my frozen embryos. Also think Palestinian Doctor with hair issues similar to mine who I never met as he cancelled date could be perfect sperm donor. Not sure how to approach him though as text along the lines of “although we’ve never met you sounded great and I want your sperm” could meet a mixed response…
Next week: I can’t predict as I don’t know what’s happened yet!
With some notable exceptions, my comedy writing career hasn’t been much of a success till now. I started in 1999 with a sitcom based on the psychedelic antics of the acid dropping Buddhist monks, hippies and resident Clown of The Happy Hippie commune I’d stayed in when I was nineteen in California. The action was translated into inner city Peckham in South London, which in 1999 was far from gentrified. The main character, Helga who was brought up on a snail farm in Germany, had been dumped by her husband and reluctantly decamped from Prime Central London Belgravia to Peckham. When she’d got into her rented flat, she’d discovered Buttercup, an ageing hippy and tech nerd drop out from MIT, meditating in a cupboard. He’d been living in parks for seven years before that. They set up a Hippie magazine Ecology and soon word goes round London that anyone who can provide a service to the commune or magazine can get free accommodation. Various oddballs such as Kirk the “body guard” a former US marine who’d survived a nuclear explosion in the Pacific but said sayonara to his sanity afterwards and Dick a gay stripper turn up. Those of you who’ve read my post “Dropping acid with a bunch of Buddhist monks in California” will recognise the scenario. But the sitcom was much more political lampooning various left wing and politically correct activist groups.
The magazine is focused on various good causes such as Amazonian Indians, Native Americans and trees. But is actually a load of rubbish based on a misunderstanding of Buddhist, Hindu and Native American philosophy. They engage in missions with various groups such as the Animal Liberation Front where they attempt and catastrophically fail to liberate 20,000 gerbils who are having bad perms on their eyebrows. Fuck ups are fundamental to the group. After printing a solid gold issue commemorating the death of the Dalai Lama (who’s unfortunately still alive) the magazine is stormed by hordes of angry Buddhists and they have to flee for their lives. The story charts the dot.com boom and bust as they set up a website in hiding, masterminded by Buttercup, who transforms from a downtrodden hippy to an Internet Entrepreneur.
The website with chanting, hallucinogenic effects and various new age philosophies becomes a massive cult hit with clubbers who are so stoned they think it’s really deep. After the website is valued at £100 million pounds Buttercup launches a coup trying to sell it to Google. This is thwarted by the dot com bust but a talent war breaks out with companies trying to poach Buttercup who ends up earning a million pounds a year.
I sent the script to Curtis Brown, the premier TV writing agency in Britain and got a personal letter back from Ben Hall the man who’s now their CEO saying he had greatly enjoyed the script and that he was “very impressed with the craft” with which I wrote.
I also sent it to a friend, a senior TV comedy producer who’d worked with many big names, such as Lenny Henry, who said I “definitely could write” but that the sitcom would not be commissioned as it was too similar to existing sitcom Hippies.
But reading through the synopsis I wrote in 1999, now in 2016, I realise that the story was very funny, quite political and very topical. If only I had had the persistence that I’ve developed in recovery plodding on with my writing career despite multiple setbacks I had enough material for a comic novel. I bitterly regret all the energy and good ideas I wasted that came to absolutely nothing because I didn’t plough on with the idea.
My next project in 2001 was completely different – a short film that was a gothic horror story about a young couple who, while having sex for the first time in a romantic woodland setting, realise they are next to a corpse. The corpse looks exactly like the girl. She falls apart after the discovery unable to touch her boyfriend or share a bedroom with him. The girl is later haunted – or imagines – the voice of the dead girl echoing around her bedroom begging her to come back to the wood where she committed suicide. There are hints that the ghost may be that of the living girl’s sister. The girl goes back to the wood, after her boyfriend fails to stop her. When she is in the wood the ghost suddenly says that she does not want to leave the girl. She invades the girls head saying she will never be alone again for a second, and the girl starts screaming realising she is going mad. The film ends with a flashback of the living girl gloating as she pushed her little sister out of a top floor window as a child.
People who read this short story said it was “gripping” and “a real page turner.” When I sent this short film into the National Film and Television School in 2002 they immediately rang me in Jamaica to ask me in for an interview. Unfortunately as my mother was devastatingly ill in Jamaica I could not come back to England for the course. Again, although I had had such good feedback on the film, I did nothing to get it produced.
The height of my comic writing career came when I had a series of 10 short factual comedy dramas about Jamaica broadcast on BBC Radio 4 to an audience of millions. These dramas which featured up to 15 characters, each performed in different accents by myself, were broadcast between 2001-2004 while I was living in Jamaica. But when I crashed out of my journalism career because of my cocaine addiction this avenue was permanently closed. In any event although I could arrange and perform the truth artistically in these dramas (which were broadcast on the “From Our Own Correspondent” programme) they had to stick closely to the facts.
My next fictional project was more ambitious: a feature film script called “The Fish Tank Babies.” This was based on a short comic story I’d written detailing my reluctance to get pregnant as “you waddle around like a walrus whose eaten too much dairy milk and can’t even pee or have sex properly afterwards.” Modern women I said were “badly designed” as “Thousands of generations of harpy-like fashion editors have liposucked our hips from the requisite 76” to 36″ inches. The solution I said was either to “return to a deeply unfashionable Stone Age sillouette or “Start growing babies in fish tanks”
The film is a satire on a glamorous driven career woman in New York, who is incredibly obnoxious but has a “perfect” life who wants children but is horrified by birth. Until very recently because of my lifelong eating disorder I could not contemplate getting pregnant and wanted to have a surrogate birth. The film also takes the piss out of the American pharmaceutical industry, as the main character is the Creative Director of an ad agency that produces glossy ads for products like “Nolaze” that treats a condition called “Morning Attention Deficit Disorder” or MADD and “Perfect” that deals with the symptoms of an epidemic disease called Limited Imperceptible Friction Energy or L.I.F.E.
Conned by the perfect commercials she creates, she decides she wants children and discovers that scientists in Japan have grown goats in artificial wombs. This last fact is actually true! In my film the Japanese government are engaged in a top secret project to rescue their national economy by raising the IQ of the population by ten points. By removing the element of pregnancy and birth they are trying to persuade the most intelligent and successful people who have the fewest children to have the most. The fishtank babies can also be mentally stimulated twenty four hours a day with Einstein’s theory of relativity piped directly into the tank, alternated with bursts of Mozart and soliloquies from Shakespeare. She emails the project and is amazed when three scientists from the Tokyo Ministry of Technology turn up at her door the following day. One of these is actually an undercover white supremacist, Smith, who has infiltrated the project trying to spread a blond haired blue eyed gene throughout the world. She goes to an Elite sperm bank to hand select the sperm donors who all produce glossy “dating videos” to attract the women. Of course everyone she chooses is over 6 foot, has been to Ivy League Universities and successful in their chosen field.
This has peculiar resonance with my own life at the moment as I want a sperm donor (preferably over 5 foot 10) who has been to a good university to create genius frozen embryos. This is to preserve my ability to have my own biological child as I am 46 and my eggs will soon be past their sell by date. The fertility clinic said a sperm bank in California has donors that look like film stars but I was horrified that you can’t get any photos of them. The honest truth is I would love a dating video of my sperm donor!
As the fish tank baby technique in the movie is experimental they have to create eight embryos in fish tanks to be sure some survive. Unfortunately all the babies survive and Sandra cannot bear to terminate any of them. This causes her life to fall apart and for her to be sacked from her job after she asks for maternity leave without being pregnant. The children are incredibly advanced, crawling within a few days, speaking after a month and also have special powers like crawling vertically up walls. She takes her employer to court for unfair dismissal and the babies at three months old give evidence in court to prove that she is their mother. The appearance of the children in court produces a media storm.
The main character softens during the film becoming more and more attached to the babies and swops her TV Executive boyfriend, who can’t get it up, for the caretaker of her building who is an impoverished writer but intelligent and actually cares about her.
After the white supremacists get wind of a plan to move the project to Tokyo they launch a plan to abduct all the babies and kill Sandra. But the babies with their special powers and the scientists outwit the commandos who are arrested by the police. The family including the caretaker end up in hiding but happy in a South American country.
My friend who is a comedy producer said that the central character was not attractive enough for the audience to care about her and that there were elements of the story that were unrealistic. She said the central character needed to be humanised and the slapstick toned down. She also suggested I could write it as a novel, which I did nothing about.
Reading this script in 2016 I see it has many good elements. Again with the slightest whiff of discouragement I abandoned the project and didn’t try to do anything with it.
Despite the chaos and trauma of my life between 1999 and 2005 when I got clean, I have lovingly preserved every one of these scripts that I have written as well as the short stories.
Considering that I didn’t keep a single receipt from the £300,000 building project I did to build my house in Notting Hill this is pretty amazing.
Once I got into recovery I was so caught up with trying to stay clean and dealing with my mental health problems that I had little time for writing. But the dramatic events that had happened in rehab, including my getting it together with an ex-armed robber pimp and drug dealer who’d forgotten how long he’d spent in jail, stimulated my imagination. When I moved into a dry house on the edge of Notting Hill, the crazy shenanigans of the residents which my boyfriend referred to as “Lunatic Lane” inspired me to start writing again. But I only made a few notes before I became obsessed with a major building project to completely re-build a house.
After the building project was finished, I started full time on my first novel whose drug dealing hero/anti-hero was inspired by my boyfriend and where the central character was a journalist who had dropped out of her career because of her cocaine addiction.
The story starts with a talented young actress, Aurelia, on the brink of Hollywood fame, ODing in a crack house. She comes to buried underground and, after a desperate struggle to escape, suffocates.
The other characters embark on a darkly humorous odyssey of addiction to avoid their feelings of guilt around her death. Her mother, Lady Olivia, realising she has not been perfect as a parent, decides to organise a perfect funeral instead. A cosmetic surgery addict, she has a series of mishaps at the hands of various cowboys on Harley Street. Aurelia’s father, Charles, a sex addict, who’s sexually abused Aurelia, becomes hooked on violent porn and sex with prostitutes. He persists in believing he’s a decent person, who’s basically misunderstood.
Aurelia’s sister, Charlie, an Oxford graduate, is the only member of the family whose life is not controlled by addiction. She is struggling to make ends meet as a journalist in New York, where she’s a rising star on a gossip column, poking fun at self-important celebrities.
Resolutely anti-drugs, she nonetheless gets drawn into the seedy world her sister inhabited as she investigates her death. But she leads the police to Colin – the man responsible for Aurelia’s death.
Wracked with guilt over her sister, who she adored but also envied, Charlie becomes addicted to alcohol and starts dabbling in cocaine. After several Absolut disasters, she crashes out of her career in journalism and relapses on cocaine. She starts doing peculiar sexual favours for older men – including a man disguised as a cocker spaniel, nicknamed “Mr Woof.” But, after a brutal experience with two clients, she gives up cocaine again and goes to stay at the house of her best friend, a loving normal family, to try to sort out her life.
Colin, whose life has been blighted by sexual abuse and his mother’s alcoholism has been caught and goes to prison, where he’s using heavily. Eventually, the heroin stops working and, overwhelmed by guilt, he attempts suicide. He is introduced to a “listener,” an older prisoner who becomes like a father to him. He starts attending meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and gets clean. He also learns to wash.
Unable to stay off drugs, Charlie starts a relationship with a Jamaican drug dealer in Notting Hill. After a while, he says his life is under threat and needs her to bring a parcel of cocaine from Jamaica. After being forced to return with the drugs, she realises she is pregnant. She leaves the dealer and gives up drugs. But she continues to drink and, after the baby is born prematurely with a heart defect, it is taken into care. On the point of killing herself, she decides she will give up alcohol instead.
Just as he’s about to flee the country, her father is arrested and charged with attempted murder after he’s attacked and almost killed two prostitutes.
Charlie cannot stop drinking and tries to get into rehab. Her father will not pay. She gets funding from her local council at a rehab bristling with ex-cons. After a procedural cock-up, Colin arrives. They clash repeatedly in group. But Charlie realises Colin has changed and that both their lives have almost been destroyed by guilt. After they leave, they become much closer and, eventually, kiss. Charlie’s father is convicted of attempted murder and stays in jail. The baby recovers after an operation on her heart. And, as Charlie is now off the booze and drugs, the social workers say that, if she stays clean, she can be re-united with the baby.
The exciting news with this novel was that the Editorial Director of a major publishing house was interested in the novel and had agreed to read it when it was finished. I set about writing the novel with absolutely no clue how to do. And when I had finished the gargantuan 250,000 word first draft and enrolled on a course in novel writing, realised it would have to be completely rewritten. After doing this I sent it to the publisher where it was read by everyone including the Editorial Director who said:
“It is a multi-layered novel which deals with the desperate consequences of addiction through a complex family drama, successfully weaving the two together. There are convincing darkly comic moments and characters. Despite the appalling situations all the characters find themselves in, there is a sense of hope threaded throughout the novel, which offers an uplifting message to a very serious topic. Overall, I thought it provided a real insight into addiction and exposes the sad truths behind it but it would be too commercial for our list.”
I then set about trying to obtain an agent for the novel. While I was waiting to hear from agents about the novel I started writing the sequel “Hippy Ever After” about the relationship and adventures of Charlie and Colin as they try to build a house and life together in Notting Hill. The blurb for this novel was as follows:
Celebrity neighbours, punch-ups with a minor royal and a basement full of exotic sharks…..
When unlikely couple Charlie and Colin choose to build a nest in one of London’s most fashionable zones they get a lot more eggs than they’d bargained for.
Will their love survive the chasm in their backgrounds and bank balances?
As well as the dark forces that are trying to drive them apart..
And will Colin, whose only home was a crack house, avoid cracking up?
When I showed the synopsis to my ex-boyfriend it was so close to my life with him he said “are you seriously telling me this is fiction.” Those of you who have read my blog posts “When celebrities destroy your house and cut through your bedroom door with a carving knife saying “we miss you” and “Armageddon with the ex-armed robber” will have an idea of the story. Though of course the big difference between my life and this novel is that I did not build my house in Notting Hill, with its constant interruption by celebrity neighbours, film stars and soap star lodgers with my ex-armed robber boyfriend. It was my house in Kensal Green, which had no celebrity involvement, that I built with him. I wrote this novel in a blaze of creativity at the end of 2013, writing 75,000 words in less than 5 weeks, as I knew a major building project was coming up on my rental property and I would not be able to write for a while.
In fact I had a nervous breakdown because of the building project and as my boyfriend, who I was still involved with, was having a baby with someone else. So I was not able to write anything for almost a year.
As I wrote Hippy Ever After so quickly I have only just read it now. Although it is a very hurried first draft and needs a lot of work it is funny and has potential. After I recovered from the nervous breakdown I got back into the first novel.
A friend of mine had said that if I wanted to be a writer I should be promoting my work on Twitter. I thought “I’ve got nothing to promote so I’ll start to write a blog.” I was really only doing it to kill time while I was waiting to hear from agents about my novel. I started posting bloginhotpants on WordPress almost exactly a year ago.
From the beginning the reaction of readers was different to my previous work. I had many hits on the blog from my first post on Facebook and comments such as “hilarious,” “sad, funny and shocking,” “Lord Byron’s got nothing on you,” and “this is very good you should turn it into a book it would be a best-seller.” Later readers commented that I was “changing their lives by revealing these intimate details.”
I had had absolutely no engagement with social media prior to writing the blog. I was not even on Twitter and never posted on Facebook. When I started I didn’t even know how to send a Tweet but did a social media course. I gradually learned how to use social media to promote the blog coming up with funny posts on Facebook and Twitter. I acquired almost 4,000 followers on Twitter. I read everything I could get my hands on on how to increase traffic to your blog.
This year I started posting on a US addiction website and Linkedin so most of my 20,000 hits have come in the last few months. The big difference between the blog and my previous writing, apart from the comedy dramas for the BBC, was my level of dedication and persistence. I treat the blog like a job doing a little on it every day. And now I have been writing it for a year I have basically completed a memoir. I still want to get the blog published but feel a tremendous sense of fulfilment from my 20,000 hits and the wonderful comments I’ve got from readers.
Next week: Clearing the infestation of serial killers from my laundry basket, chest of drawers, wardrobe and even the deep freeze – my recovery from a lifetime of OCD.