Category: Inspiration

Dire Straits

 Okay, this post is about my less-than-fortunate living situation here, but I am fully aware that I am in a position of  privilege as a white middle-class person with a British passport and a good university degree. Please, as you read it, play the song below, a song which is not by the band, Dire Straits, but by a different band called Pulp, Common People, to keep my words in perspective.

Once again, I am homeless and extremely jobless, which is actually the most authentic way to experience Berlin so that’s good, isn’t it?

Basically, in Germany you need to register with the municipal council (Buergeramt) in order to get an official address, a tax number, and get a proper contracted job. I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been subletting all this time, because I’m too poor to get a proper place, so I’ve also had to get jobs that are cash in hand or based in the UK, which means I stay poor, so I can’t get a flat … etc. It’s frustrating, and not uncommon, and going from place to place has made this year very bizarre.

There was my friend Rafael’s place, a charming flat near Treptower Park with classic hipster pallet-shelves. I electrocuted myself in this flat! Definitely my favourite of the year.
Then there was the flat I sublet from a friend I met on Tinder. His apartment was a 2.5 room place where most of the kitchen was a shower. (Gross, but very good if you want to eat a hot lunch immediately after washing.) The flat also had many digital canvas prints, apparently of early 2000s Windows desktop backgrounds.
Then, there was the place I shared with up to 200 DJs. (Only one on the lease but he kept loaning his room out to other strange young men I wouldn’t even know were there until I bumped into them in the kitchen at 1am.) I was going to stay there till spring but then the boiler broke and the toilet broke and the gas was shut off because the stove broke and then I was told to the best way to get the landlord to fix everything was to move out immediately. That was just before my trip to Edinburgh, so I’ve now found a floor to sublet for this month while I try and scrape some money together and get somewhere permanent.

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I’m now quite used to scraping money together by whatever means I can. Over the last seven months, I have scrubbed floors and toilets, proofread dissertations, and took a background role in a porn film. (Me and a friend had to walk past a couple on the stairs and *react*. We’re both English so basically we just giggled nervously at the floor.) Most of my income has come from a couple of freelance jobs I picked up as a tour manager for youth choirs, amounting to about €1,200. A lot of the time it’s been very difficult, I’ve struggled, and I really didn’t know what the phrase “living hand to mouth” meant until this year. (But in fairness, it is a bit of a weird phrase.)
When I came back from Scotland to find myself back to square one, realised that I wouldn’t even be able to host my own brother and sister-in-law, who’ve been planning to come and stay with me since May, honestly – I felt truly ashamed.

[Feel free to start playing Common People again at this point.]

But I am, let’s not forget, incredibly incredibly lucky! This year has been really really tough at times, but it’s also been brilliant – when I appealed to my friends, looking for somewhere for Ben and Sasha to stay, so many people got in touch to offer beds, both for them and for me if I needed one. People offered to cook for me. People offered me airbeds even if they have some foot-blood stains on them. Although I am homeless, this city is really starting to feel like home, with the ace network of people I have here.

This year, somehow(!!!) I’ve even made money as a stand-up comedian, something I’d never have expected. The original motivation behind founding SAUCE, my own open mic night, was just to make ends meet and truly it’s one of the best things I have ever done. (Please don’t mistake this as an endorsement of the dangerous + hackneyed old idea that “you gotta be poor to make art! You gotta be hungry!”. It is rare to be able to make literally any money from stand-up this early in the game – I just live in Berlin where the scene is still small and pretty cheap. Being poor does not help me make art, it makes me sad and it makes me tired.) Making money from what I do, from what I love, is such a joy, such a boost to my confidence, a real f***-you to my imposter syndrome: I need the money to live, but it also reminds me that my voice, my creative output, has value. It’s crucial. If there’s something you love that you get for free, think about if there’s some way of sponsoring or supporting it – if it’s an artist, see if they have a Patreon or a PayPal or some way of contributing, it is so essential.

I guess what I’m saying is, pay artists always, and life is very very strange. I didn’t expect to be living like this at 26, or even this late into this year, because I sort of figured it would have worked itself out by now. But I also didn’t expect myself to move to Germany, start doing stand-up, and start my own show, so really, I shouldn’t underestimate myself, and anything is possible, and uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh reach for the stars I guess

Fringe Diary #2

Good afternoon!! I sat down to start writing this and immediately wanted to apologise for writing this in the first place when nobody asked me to, and that’s #womanhood

(Sidenote: surely more first-person novels should start, continue and end with: “um, sorry, not to make this all about me, but…”)

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon, baby! and I have no gigs tonight. Yesterday I tried to just sit and hone my set and for those of you who aren’t writers or creatives, “hone” means I spent eight hours eating toast and listening to podcasts. I produced two (2) new lines so, you know, that’s like one new line for every two slices of toast which is really pretty economical. The gig went better than the previous night, but I’m still a bit annoyed at myself for not having more material that I feel comfortable with, that sounds like “me”.

(Everyone says Fringe is exhausting and I didn’t know if it was because of like performing a lot and drinking a lot and staying up late but it can also be exhausting because of RELENTLESS self-evaluation. Enjoy!!!!)

I needed a picture to spice the post up but didn’t take any yday so please enjoy this evidence of me drunkenly eating nachos at my last stint at the Fringe in 2014. A boy made out with me after this because THAT IS HOW POWERFUL I WAS AT 22

I’ve been toying with some new and more sort of dorky, smiley work for the last few months but it’s not ready, especially not with the Footlights where the style tends to be more “hello I am a Clever Student like a Baby Stephen Fry!!” The Footlights as a group do have a definite voice, though, which I’d never have noticed if I hadn’t grown as a comic outside of that scene and outside of uni, and of the UK. I don’t know if I can even call myself a British comedian, stylistically. Does this sound like … er … a thing? Comment below!!! This is an interactive blog, you tell ME what the heck I’m on about!!

After my show, I hung out with some of the guys from the show, which was lovely, before heading to Stamptown’s variety show at midnight (midnight! I’m such a grown-up). It had loads of clowning in it and although I wish I’d had more energy for it, it was totally exhilarating and a really great refresher course in how comically effective it can be to just play with sound and movement. For some reason, people dancing really energetically to loud music and then the music cutting out unexpectedly for someone to say one thing, before immediately going back to dancing to the music again, can be really funny. I mean, there’s only so much I could take away from it to think about in my own comedy as the show was pretty weird and wild – I don’t think there’s really space in my act to perform ballet butt-naked besides an Elizabethan ruff collar – but it was great to see something different, and cool, and stupid, and really just very, very silly.

So far, so much to think about and work on. This week has been very knackering for me, with more and longer sets than I’ve ever performed at the start of the week hosting two shows in Berlin and performing on a showcase, all to a lethargic over-heated summertime crowd … I went to bed last night at 3am so bleary-eyed, but thinking “lemme back up on that stage!!”

Business or Pleasure?

Valentine’s Day can be rough as a single person, but I’ve always loved it. It is like a festival of bitterness. As a confirmed bachelorette, I’ve only had one Valentine’s Day in a couple and although it was, you know, lovely – I got a song played to me on a ukelele as a surprise and I completely freaked out and splurged on a mediocre prix fixe – it just didn’t feel like it was really in the spirit of the thing.

For me, the rule is: the bleaker, the better, and Valentine’s Day 2017 was an absolute cracker. I had just been dumped, had no job, my house was so cold it was like it was trying to attack me. Although I did get some post, it was just a letter from the NHS inviting me to book a pap smear. (It’s the thought that counts.)

true romance
My cervix brings all the boys to the yard / and they’re like / “Cervical screening is offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years.”

Valentine’s Day 2018, though, I really wanted to treat myself. #Galentines! So I ran away from all of my problems to start a new life in Berlin.

This had started out as a Lovely Thought at some stage last year. Oh, such a Lovely Thought! The kind of thought you lovingly pore over as you go to sleep at night. The kind of thought you carry around with you like a comfort blanket. The kind of thought you imagine fixing everything – this thought will make you more beautiful, more successful, it will make all of your ex-partners and school bullies and rivals jealous and obsessed and you won’t even CARE because of how lovely the thought is.

It could have stayed a Lovely Thought, absolutely it could have done. When I die, you will find in all 15,000 of my To-Do Lists a perfect and intricate account of everything I meant to do but never got around to doing. Just ask my yoga mat.

So when all of a sudden I found myself on the 09:10 flight to Tegel on Wednesday, I was more surprised than any of you. “Aha!” I thought, “I guess I wasn’t joking.” As the plane took off, I started to giggle. Helplessly. I was wiping tears from my eyes. I don’t know what the other passengers must have thought – probably that I was drunk, or it was my first time on a plane, or I was really enjoying the Eurowings sick-bags which said “Don’t worry, we won’t take it personally” on them in English and German.

But I had to laugh, because somehow, I had gotten away with it. This ridiculous plan to just pack up and go because I fancied it. That’s not how life works, doing things because you fancy them. The structure of society, of politics, of bureaucracy, does not allow for it. Nowhere on immigration forms or job applications or marriage certificates is it acceptable to list your purpose as “Just Because I Felt Like It, Really”. And yet here I was, with my one-way ticket and a case full of weird oversized navy clothes, cackling away to myself and with no reason at all to be there besides wanting to be happy and thinking I might as well do something about it.

(Obviously, I was also giggling because of the sick-bags. That was a solid joke.)

Wannabeing

lolbabyjosie
me, successfully pretending I know how to use a sound recorder. (Copyright Miss Edison 2014)

I love the BFI. I love it so much. I have loved it since I first stepped foot in it, some three years ago now. I love the high ceilings, the swish cafés, the gorgeous red seats in NFT1, and the shop – oh, the shop. For someone who once, as a teenager, sighed with longing for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and La Belle et la bête, neither of which were on sale at hmv Watford, a place which stocks everything from Georges Méliès DVDs to dorky film t-shirts to books on filmmakers from Abbas to Werner, it’s just heaven basically.

Plus, it’s got an incredible library. I’ve decided to make it my new place of work if I have to do something at all creative and pretend to myself that I am a wildly successful but also little-known filmmaker. I dress in my most creative-but-also-practical-because-I-am-just-here-to-work clothes, sashay up to the counter in the café, and in my most grown-up voice, order myself an “just an espressohh”. Working in a coffee shop is one way of being productive, because I suppose it gets you out of your house and the hubbub of the place can act as a sort of white noise. But when you are also surrounded by people you would like to be one day, you absolutely cannot drift onto Facebook, oh goodness me, no! You have to be working on your screenplay, or editing your latest film, or feverishly sending emails.

But one thing I have noticed when I have come here to read, write or just pay homage in my Sunday best, is that I am far from alone. While sipping my coffee and tapping away at something in a Courier New font, I take sly glances at the people around me and they’re doing exactly the same. Alone and yet altogether, we rake our fingers through our hair, visibly burdened by the weight of our genius. We love cinema but oh, how we suffer for it! (Does it show?)

It even comes through in people’s conversations. Not that I actively eavesdrop on other people, of course, and perhaps it’s the acoustics of the place – but you hear that air of “mm, yes, yes I do do film” in each carefully articulated phrase or better yet, pause to consider. “Hmm…yes, that could work.” That very quiet enjoyment of how impressive you might be to the other person, how clever and experienced and witty you sound.

Now, it could seem intolerable to be surrounded by people trying to sound clever and successful, and sometimes it is. It absolutely is. But it is also completely wonderful to realise that whatever age these people are, they’re all exactly the same as me – just faking it until, or even after, they make it. It’s just like that moment on the first film I worked on when, after having done our best to pull everything together and starting to film, we all at once realised we were making a film. A film! Us! And this excitement hit us all as though out of nowhere and we took a bunch of pictures of the slate, the set and the kit.

If people who have worked in the industry for years and years can still sound like they feel surprised and delighted to be where they are, making films for money, then please sign me up. I will be the one trying to order coffees in a weird voice.

Single, unemployed, and vegan.

suv
phwoar look at the mug on that

“Fucking January!” is something which my very wonderful and talented housemate Temi has been given to scream every so often over the last few weeks. She has been suffering through a pretty gruelling Veganuary experience – because, as she has reasoned, being single and unemployed is bad enough but being vegan on top of it all is just far, far too much. And since we’re apparently facing the end of Western civilisation as we know it (thanks Nigel, thanks Donald), now more than ever we should take pleasure in the simple glory of a very cheddar-heavy plate of cheese on toast.

As for me, I haven’t gone in for Dry January or an arbitrary health kick like that.

Instead, I thought I’d try to just completely change my life.

You know that feeling at Christmas and New Year’s parties, when you’re catching up with people for the first time in ages, and even before you leave the house, when you’re still working up the courage to use the confusing new toiletries you got as presents from a distant aunt, you’re anxious about answering the question: “what are you up to these days?” I’ve been in this very terrible and uncomfortable and very un-me shaped rut which, because it was not at all shaped like I am (sort of like a smallish pork chipolata, incidentally), it meant that I was starting to forget how to be who I am. And being miserable, but finding it hard to register any of it as my experience because it just was not me.

So, I thought it would be best to maybe extract myself and search for greener pastures. Unfortunately, when you have spent a long, long time not really concentrating on yourself, it gets quite hard to work out exactly what and where these pastures are, so I suppose what I’m saying is that I lumbered off in the general direction of what might bring me some sort of joy besides Meridian Crunchy Peanut Butter (the official peanut butter of this blog). It was always kind of obvious, hindsight being 20:20 and all that, but after some soul-searching I realised that this was quite clearly going to be directing films. This is terrifying, because I don’t know how to do it yet. But I also didn’t know how to speak French or make a curry or write a dissertation or design a set, at some stage, until I learned how because I really wanted to. And I really, really want to do this (when I am not being afraid). I want to make cool weird things like Obvious Child and Flight of the Conchords and everything Agnes Varda has ever done, which is why I can, and why I will. This might sound a bit childish and simplistic, but that’s because desire is often childish and simplistic, and it’s easiest to formulate them in that way.

This blog, newly renamed Making Of, is about this kind of focused wander in the direction of what I want to do and who I want to be, as is, I guess, everything ever written by everyone. Great. But when everyone else is starting their 2017 by depriving themselves of what they enjoy, why not begin my year by letting myself go after what I want?

New Year’s Resolutions

 

  1. Eat more vegetables
  2. Drink less wine
  3. Do more exercise
  4. Get everywhere on time
  5. Don’t go out so much
  6. See your parents more
  7. Give guys a chance!
  8. Be less of a whore
  9. Be more generous
  10. Spend less money
  11. Be more sophisticated
  12. Be more funny
  13. Be more patient
  14. Make yourself heard
  15. Take more pride in your appearance
  16. CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF, YOU DUMB SLUT
  17. Follow your dreams.

 

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Wishing you a Super Sweet ’16!