When we’re young, it can feel like we’ve wasted a whole lot of time and energy on dreams that never came to fruition. I was desperate to be a ballet dancer, I adored dancing never mind that I didn’t have the physique or the feet for it. I can remember doing a week of workshops at the National Ballet Centre in Harare and one of the guest teachers saying “Your top half is great, but the bottom…” She shook her head sadly. Reader, I can only assume she was referring to my substantial ass.
Funny now, not quite so amusing at age 14.
Aside: why does ARSE sound so much ruder than ASS? One of life’s little mysteries…
I poured so much energy into my ballet, I was horrible at exams and would just scrape through, but I was great at performing. Then in my matric year, I was in the middle of doing a plié (same WhatsApp group as a squat but more graceful) and I remember thinking “this bores me.” It was kind of devastating because dancing had been my dream for so long, like what was I if I wasn’t a dancer?
But it was also a bit of an eye-opener because once I stepped back from it, I realized there was more to life than dancing, that in fact a large proportion of the world did not give a rat’s ass (or even a rat’s arse) about ballet. So, I toddled off to varsity, feeling a bit anchorless but then in the drama department I discovered contemporary dance and all my ballet skills suddenly didn’t seem like such a waste at all. I ended up majoring in dance and using those same dance skills to get my first job in theatre when I finally took a bash at making a career as an actor.
Sadly, the same thing happened with me with acting. We were doing the umpteenth performance of some show and once again, I thought “this bores me.” Despite finding a great agent, I didn’t really shoot the lights out as an actor. I would describe myself as MILDLY rather than WILDLY successful. I would like to blame my ass, but I’m not sure that was the only issue, I don’t think my heart was in it to be honest. Again, when the work fizzled out, it felt like a failure, like I had wasted all that time. I suspect at this point there might have been mutters of “Time to get a real job” from my family, which I studiously ignored.
My acting career did lead to me to starting my own educational kids’ theatre company, which I thought was going to turn me into a Pieter Torien style impresario. Spoiler alert: I didn’t turn into any kind of impresario. As I’ve mentioned before, when I didn’t want to pay the lovely lady a bribe at Rand Water, our contract wasn’t renewed and the company kind of fizzled out. Again, I felt like I’d wasted all that time. But that writing of scripts led me to writing a musical for my Master’s which then led to my son’s kindermusik teacher coming to watch which led to me getting a shot at writing scripts for a local TV show.
I’d like to say, the rest is history and we could have a nice montage here of me in the writers’ room and pounding away on my laptop and being shat upon by the Head Writer for putting in too many exclamation marks and not enough action in my first script. Lord have mercy, that first script…it was truly horrible, but seeing my name up in the credits was pretty cool.
TV writing has not been an altogether smooth ride, which is nothing to do with my ass, it’s just how life is. But I can see now with the benefit of hindsight how one job has led me to the next – not in any kind of linear way – I have used skills acquired from one job for the next. I could see that quite clearly with my writing. How screenwriting has made me a better novelist and vice versa and how my acting and stand-up comedy skills have helped me during story meetings when I’m pitching a story or during book launches and interviews.
I think this is extremely pertinent now after we’ve just lived through this shitshow where we’re all thinking, “WT actual F was the point of that?” It’s been bloody hard and it feels like the most incredible waste of two years. For me it’s too soon to answer that question and I know some people will say the only meaning of the pandemic is the one we assign to it, which is also fine. It is natural to want to see some great cosmic plan in everything.
Today, I am just grateful we are out of the third wave, that most of us in my household are vaccinated, that I have work, that we are healthy, that the jacaranda blooms are out and starting to look magnificent, that I will see some of my family members in December. I hope to get a break from work sometime before I turn 60, and NO UNIVERSE I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT HAVING TOO MUCH WORK. Keep it coming. But beyond that who knows? And that’s the exciting bit. I approach the future with curiosity.
Six Years With Al Quaeda which is the Stephen McGown Story as told by Tudor Caradoc-Davies (who has the coolest name.) The lovely Lyndsay Barr wanted to give this book to me in December (January?) but first I had Covid and then she had Covid and we were both pretty sick with it so she ended up giving it to me now. Just love the inscription and it fits in very well with my theme of nothing ever being wasted. Stephen AKA Lot (he converted to Islam whilst in captivity) turned his terrible ordeal into the most magnificent learning experience EVER. I found this book RIVETING, could not put it down and am now LONGING for a sequel. Also, his wife Cath’s maiden name is Power which means we are probs related.
In other book news, I am HUGELY excited because Never Tell A Lie by the hilarious Gail Schimmel arrived for me this week, sent to me by the lovely team at Pan Macmillan. Gail is doing a proper in-person launch and will be in convo with other fave, Sue Nyathi next Thursday, 6 for 6.30 pm at Exclusives in Rosebank. NOT. TO. BE. MISSED.
Film/TV recommendations: have nothing for you this week except a long list of things I want to watch because I’ve been working my ass off. Not quite. There’s still a lot of ass left – and just as well – I never imagined that people would pay, would get ACTUAL IMPLANTS to give them a more ample derrière. You see – nothing is ever wasted – not even my ass. It’s now in fashion. Happy reading! xxx