Saturday, February 03, 2007

Rewind, pause...

The office was closed down. The script that had attracted a record amount of development money was dead. I was signing on.

Some back story before I continue. Around the time the first euros came through, my soon-to-be-ex was dreaming about returning to his native* South Africa. I accompanied him to SA, taking Viki King's inspiring tome and knocked out a first draft script in 21 days. The ex stayed in South Africa and over the next year I flew back and forth several times. Johannesburg was alive - change was tangible - the mood - upbeat. I directed a dance documentary and taught a short screenwriting course.

I had an idea for a script set in SA. It was the antithesis to the 'commercial' story that I'd been slogging away at. I wrote it in London. By now the long distance relationship was over.

No one much liked the new script - it was edgy and unfamiliar. It was accepted for a directing lab in Ireland - 10 days of Guinness fuelled fun and bonding and filming scenes with actors - (including the brilliant Chewy).

I received a 6 month 'Restart' interview letter from the Job Centre. Dutifully I skipped off to London Bridge, sat in a room full of people, filled in multiple choice questions and did a brief interview. I was measured for a uniform, told to obtain police clearance, sent for a drug and alcohol test and a full medical. Somehow I'd slipped seamlessly into a full time job on the London Underground.

The 4 week training was full of transactional analysis and personality tests. Every test indicated that I was the most unsuitable employee for LU. I was an anarchist. I was not a team player. I was not consumer-oriented. 4 weeks flew by. Some participants were mysteriously shown the door amid rumours of 'spying' or 'bad references' or worse. The ones that remained started to feel smug. We drew diagrams of magnetic fields and learned about conductivity and the positive and negative rails. We did a track walk. We visited the Transport Museum and made site visits to Charing Cross Underground Station and analysed used tickets. On the last day of the course we got drunk and danced the night away in Camden. My brand new life had begun.

For months I crept across London at 3am, ghosted through empty stations, sipped tea in subterranean mess rooms, hid myself in platform boxes to make announcements (in exactly the same mournful tones as I'd heard others do for years); 'The next Southbound Bakerloo line service will be calling at.. I showed thousands of people how to get to where they were going. In uniform I was invisible. Then I was moved to the shiny new Jubilee Line extension. Beneath the transcendent architecture and countless cameras, there was no place to hide. I walked back and forth and back and forth along miles and miles of polished platform impatient for the next break, the next train, the next radio message, the next change of shift, the next rush hour, the next minute, the next time to go home...

After 18 months I couldn't stand it any longer. I went off sick on full pay. I wasn't going back. I had a whole new script in my head and it took me exactly 3 months to get it out. Then I handed in my notice.


* It later turned out he had a multiple personality disorder and was not South African at all - but that's another story.


Deborah said...

sluurrrp! more more!

Pillock said...

Hurry with the next installment!

Optimistic_Reader said...

Exactly, this is compulsive reading!