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She Looks Back And Laughs

Things that my younger self would not quite believe about me now:

1. I have learnt a few things from actors.  NOT MANY – Christ, let’s be clear here, I’m still a techie!  I do not practice throwing invisible balls around a circle, and in a rehearsal room I don’t ‘offer’ my insights like a lotus blossom.  I plonk my ideas on the table with a 12V battery and a smoking hot soldering iron, and if it’s shit, that’s what it is.  Still a techie, guys.  However.  Before public speaking, perhaps a wee bit of warming up isn’t a totally terrible idea.  Learning the difference between shouting and projecting – also a winner.  The bare minimum of being able to do a voice for readings?  Also has its uses.  Damnit.  But mainly what I’ve learned is that if you have to choose between getting a writer or an actor to read a thing out loud, you should always get the actor.

2.  I’m a gig lighting designer, rather than a theatre LD.  The transition has been a long time coming, but when I first went to Ra-de-da all of… oooh… 9 years ago, the thought of being a music LD had never even occured to me.  I had been to one gig in my life, and it simply wasn’t a question I had the vocabulary to ask.

3.  Apparently I write ‘literature’.  I believe that I write science fiction.  But I am regularly in the minority in this view.

4.  I don’t just shout at people who I disagree with any more.  In fairness, my younger self didn’t realise that this was what she did, bless her cottons, but she did.  She shouted.  A lot.  Anything that she disagreed with was doubtless not merely wrong, it was a stupid embraced by stupid people.  A few years down the line, I realise just how wrong I was.  I still hold very strong opinions on a range of issues, and will fight for them.  But I will fight against humans, whole, true and valuable, rather than against idiots I dismiss with a flick of my wrist.  Mostly.  I hope.  Well – I’m trying.

5.  I have short hair.  When I was 19, my hair reached my backside and hadn’t been cut for 5 years, because it was easier.  The idea of getting a haircut more than once a year was absurd.  I’m now ok with visiting the hairdresser every 3/4 months to spend £10 on a trim, instead of £30 every 9 months and being told that the whole thing needs to start again.  Mostly ‘cos of economics, but also partly because, in another turn up for the books, I vaguely accept that looking after myself isn’t a moral vice.  Given my self-defensive mechanism of ‘don’t care caring is bad’ for having always had the usual anxieties about my looks that all women everywhere tend to have, this has been a bit of a leap.

6.  Weirdly, I exercise.  On a fairly regular basis.  Aged 19 I would once again have chalked this up to a moral vice – a sure sign that you were vain and had no conversation.  Aged 32 I am forced to concede that my body aches if I don’t look after it, and that perhaps my inability to open jam jars is just getting embarrassing now.  I still can’t cope with gyms, but give me a skill-based bit of exercising such as martial arts or swimming, and I’ll get involved.  Poorly, but with gumption.

7.  Similar note – I’m learning to like lentils. Lentils, for heaven’s sake!  Who is this strange creature who tries to live on anything more sophisticated than the peanut butter sandwich?

8.  I meditate.  Even now, my younger self cringes and squirms inside, and frankly I don’t blame her, because I write the dreaded word – ‘meditate’ – and at once my head fills with a cloud of incense and the rubbing of healing crystals and chanting of sacred mantras, and neither youthful me nor the me of today can be having that.  And even if you step away from the nonsense, ‘meditation’ in a proper way usually has a formal theological componant, and I don’t, and it’s kinda a disservice to the tradition from which it’s come from to claim ownership of that at all.  So whatever the word is, taking ten to fifteen minutes out of every day to chill the crap out in a mildly formalised manner – yeah.  I am grudgingly forced to concede that it’s probably gone a long way to keeping me sane.

9.  I’m wrong.  I mean, I’ve always been wrong.  I’ve just a) never admitted it much and b) just assumed that the assumptions which come to me as untested absolutes must, because they make some thin sense, be right.  I assume that it’s faster to catch the tube than the bus; I assume that a mathematical outcome is x, on the spur of the moment, and at speed.  This is unremarkable.  Trying to live our daily lives based on having every single jot of information available all the time would be exhausting, if not downright implausible.  But finally, now that old age creeps upon me, I am beginning to tell the difference between actual fact, and merely confident assumption, and to identify more clearly the presumptions that lie beneath my daily life.

10.  I’m… sorta… willing to spend money.  Sometimes.  I have been self-employed my entire life, and in two remarkably unreliable professions.  Spending cash has therefore been a bit of gamble, hoping that in the future more cash might arrive if I’m lucky.  It took someone actually making me give myself pocket money to begin to come to the terms with the idea that again, I might be worth spending on now, rather than just saving everything for and unknown disaster.  It’s still a bit of a struggle, but I’m working on it.

11.  I really like languages.  At school, I went through the usual proceedure of just learning verbs by rote and explaining that on Saturday I play tennis in a variety of European tongues.  At university I swore never to touch languages ever again; then started learning a bit of Chinese and loved it.  I’m still very, very bad at language, and don’t really grasp core components.  But I enjoy it a bunch.

12.  And as an extension I guess of a lot of the above (exercise, language, errors etc.) I am fine being merely ok at many things.  Once the only way to be acceptable was to excel in everything.  These days I am proud to excel in those tiny, tiny areas of life where I have worked my backside off to do well.  Everything else – meh.  I’m just doing it for the fun, and that’s ok.

13.  I have learned to say no.  In the past ‘no’ was terrifying.  ‘No’ was no more work, no opportunities, no value, no self-worth.  ‘No’ was saying ‘no’ to being wanted.  Now ‘no’ is great.  Now it is empowerment, and though it’s still a very frightening thing to say, I like it.


Things that are consistent:

1.  I am a terrible gardener, and regard greenery with intense suspicion.  Although in fairness, my usual cry of ‘what do you mean, “outside” London?!’ is now mostly given in honour of my city roots, rather than because I find the idea of a mainline train as diabolical as it once was.  Gotta keep the side up, right?

2.  I still don’t want kids.  Might foster one day.  Might not.  Not yet decided.  Still frustrated when people inform me that their experience of this urge (to want/not want) is absolute. It ain’t.

3.  I still act like an 8-year old on a regular occassion, and that’s cool too.  Although the swings in the playground have got weirdly tight around the hips….

4.  I do still love peanut butter sandwiches.  (Crunchy, not smooth.)  And junk food in general.  I’ve very occassionally been treated to posh food by kind people, but to be honest, my palette just ain’t there yet.

5.  Still teetotal.  Not for any moral reasons.  It’s just an old habit that’s come in handy, and which I see no reason to break.

6.  Still love Terry Pratchett, Roger Zelazny, Ursula Le Guin.  Time ain’t taking these away from me.