I might have just been turned down to study screenplay writing at MA level, but I’m determined to learn something, if only from my mistakes. I’ve been trying to think where on earth I’ve gone wrong. Perhaps you too can learn from my mistakes, before it’s too late…
1 I was too generous. People don’t like you just because you give them things; in fact, they secretly resent you. They also won’t, never mind how many holidays you took them on, or gifts you gave their children, help you out when you are in need by so much as a tin of dog food!
2 I was too optimistic. I took out a huge mortgage, believing I would always have work coming out of my (over large and largely deaf) ears. Learn to save ten per cent of what you earn, and pay off your mortgage as soon as you can.
3 I never checked the small print, as I was just too grateful, which meant I also made mistake number four.
4 Know your own worth. I didn’t. I still don’t.
5 Don’t trust the people you employ at great expense (accountant, agent) to look after your interests before their own, or not to make mistakes. Open and read everything.
6 Don’t do a reality TV show to pay your tax bill. Half will be taken anyway, more will be taken by your agent and, as my wise friend Dawn told me after the event, you will devalue your ‘brand’, should you be lucky enough to be such a thing.
7 Don’t burn your bridges. If I hadn’t told the truth about Burberry and fur and freebies, about being ejected forcefully from a Jonathan Saunders show, about how Miu Miu buttons just break, or fly off, I would still be employable.
8 Don’t let a man’s rejection define you. What does he know? He’s probably blind or stupid.
9 Men never notice if you have waxed your hair or had Botox or your roots are showing.
10 Never help other women up the career ladder. You will never, ever hear from them again.
I’ve been watching EastEnders on my iPad (a gift; I no longer own a TV). The storyline of Denise, and her poverty, is the first time I have seen in popular culture exactly what I am going through. She, we, look fine from the outside: the hair, the make-up, the boyfriend. But, like Denise, I know what it is like to have £3 in your account, which you cannot have, as the amount is too small to extract from a cash machine. I know what it’s like to look in the cupboard and find nothing, not even some grains of rice. I was going to make dahl this evening but I have: no lentils, no onion, no rice, no garlic. I know what it is like for a boyfriend to say he is coming round this evening, and you have to stage an impromptu argument, as you have nothing to feed him. I’ve done that with David. Countless times. Of course, he never noticed: he just assumed I was hormonal, or mad.
I know what it is like to take your jewellery to a shop to sell it, and to have the shop owner tell you, of your cherished necklace, given to you by your dad on your 18th birthday, ‘Nah. Those pearls aren’t real.’ Or of your diamond ring, given to you by your husband after he landed a book deal, ‘Nah, the diamond chips are too small. Worthless.’
I know what it is like to stand in Tesco, and have them de-scan items until the amount equals what you have in your wallet. I’m always amazed, also in Tesco (you can tell how low I’ve stooped; what’s next, Lidl?), when I see women with toddlers, trolleys heaving, or pensioners, with their wheelchairs laden with (to my eyes) quite unnecessary luxuries, such as chocolate or crisps or flowers, and I think, ‘What on earth do these people do for a living that they can afford all that? I haven’t been in anything other than the basket aisle for nearly ten years!’
I can almost feel the vibrations of you thinking, well, what happened to the script, and the movie star? She still hasn’t read it. I’ve waited for TWO YEARS. I know it is funnier than anything else out there. I KNOW movies. I live and BREATHE movies. They are the only thing that has kept me going. I am at rock bottom. My actual bottom is not rock bottom. It has collapsed, as if depressed, into a Viennetta of pale, disappointed folds. I have no idea what to do next.