Paradise Lost

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CC Image courtesy of Glen Bowman on FlickrSeveral years ago, the BBC broadcast a period drama called The Paradise. It was about a department store in the north of England run by charming entrepreneur Moray. The local totty thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and badly wanted to marry him (which would have been to his advantage, since totty’s father had pots of money ready to invest in the store).

Enter Denise: pretty, clever and ambitious. She makes her mark at the store (lots of bright ideas for displays, that kind of thing) and even catches the attention of Moray. Cue URST (UnResolved Sexual Tension).

Just when we think Moray and Denise are about to sail off into the sunset, there’s a twist (SPOILER ALERT). The crucial speech:

Denise: I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.

That’s the line from the series that most stayed with me. And it’s the line I resisted the urge to quote when, earlier this year, I found myself on a date with the man who’d helped script the series.

‘It was great!’ I said. (I probably clapped.) ‘It was better than Mr. Selfridge.’

He grinned. ‘Aww bless you.’

(I should have known then it was doomed.)


We saw each other a couple more times, and each time conversation turned to his job.

CC Image courtesy of Marvin (PA) on Flickr

I’ve dated people from a range of professions: engineers, a journo, an architect, a theoretical physicist. Infatuation, I find, is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of job envy. And if I don’t fancy doing the actual job – me as a theoretical physicist LOL – I’m seduced by the lifestyle that goes with it. I still have no idea how the physicist managed to go on fortnightly holidays.

But – the journo aside – it’s all been fantasy. Until Moray.


I hung on his every word. Date one, I admitted to having tried to get into script development a while back. I’d even spoken to several script editors about the best routes in. He knew the people I’d spoken to. It just gave us more to talk about.

But, unlike Moray, he didn’t come to me on bended knee. So, shortly before the inevitable parting of the ways, I started mourning the relationship. He was fun; I’d miss that. I’d miss the sex too. But what I’d miss most was sharing a passion. We’d watched the trailer for The Crown and agreed about the lack of conflict. We hadn’t agreed about Michael’s character in Mum (I found him a bit annoying), but we did both love the theme tune (‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’) and listened to it together the last morning I spent at his.

I told him the best bit of screenwriting advice I’d ever read. He told me about the alien story his company was in the process of pitching. He loved his job. I loved his job.

I loved his job. I loved his job.

Five-hour meetings to determine characters’ back-stories. Brainstorming plot lines with a writer in their hotel room. Working all Sunday on a scene breakdown.


I set about updating my CV, making over my LinkedIn profile, emailing potential contacts – the works.


Occasionally I thought of him, pictured his head resting on my pillow.

I like you.’

I smile. ‘I like you too.’

We kiss.

‘What do you want?’ he says.

It’s a script joke – a protagonist should always want something.

The same thing as you,’ I whisper, and pull him closer.

If only that had been true.

CC Image courtesy of Oceans of Lilim on Flickr

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CC Image courtesy of Mollivan Jon on FlickrI spend my weekend doing career quizzes, which throw up helpful suggestions like sheep-shearing (presumably because I said I don’t like working with people), and chatting to men online.

‘What do you do?’

Almost all of them ask, making me wonder if I shouldn’t have been more honest in my ‘What I’m doing with my life’ section.

I wish I knew

I should’ve put, or

Who the fuck knows?




Not talking about my job, that’s what.

Alternating between tabs – 28-year-old Joe from Wapping who makes apps for a living and the Guardian’s ‘Behind the job title’ series – I’m starting to wonder if it’s love I’m looking for or career inspiration.

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CC Image courtesy of auntie rain on FlickrSeven minutes and counting.  I stare at my phone, willing the digits not to change.


Earlier in the evening…

He comes over to me.

‘I think this is yours.’

My bracelet.  I left it on the piano during our first dance.

‘Oh!  Thank you!’  I say, slipping it on.

I feel like Cinderella.

Prince Charming says something about how he didn’t want me to forget it, and I agree that that would have been very sad.  (For the record, and because my mother is reading this, and she gave me the bracelet with the tender words, ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll have it’, I would not have forgotten it.)


Half an hour later, having interrogated friend of PC and established that he is single and decent (whatever that means), I’m in the pub.  I’m not talking to PC – that would be ridiculous – but I am in his general vicinity, chatting to Rachel.  He glances my way occasionally; Rachel, under strict instructions not to stare, is ogling at him.

I look at my watch.  ‘I can’t stay too long.  I’ve got to get this application in by midnight.’

Quick glance at PC.

‘I’m not a fan of ‘The Rules’ generally,’ I say, ‘but where do we stand on waiting for the guy to come to us, in this situation?’

Rachel wrinkles her nose.  ‘Hmmm nah.’

‘But, in my experience, if a guy wants to talk to you, he’ll make it happen – he’ll seek you out.’

I’m thinking of Joe – and look how well that turned out.

‘Y-es, that’s true,’ she says, ‘but nah.’

This doesn’t surprise me: Rachel is pretty, flirty, and vivacious, and smart and funny and has an incredible figure.  I must get some ugly friends.

At this point, we’re joined by a guy who evidently shares my high opinion of Rachel, and I head off in search of PC’s friend.  He’s surprisingly amenable to the idea of playing Cupid.  Five minutes later, PC and I are chatting at the bar.

‘Are you a Casualty fan?’

He looks surprised.  ‘No.  Why?’

‘Nor am I, but I’m having to fake it for a job application, and it’s proving quite tricky.  One of the questions is “which do you think has been the least successful storyline in the last twelve months?”‘

He suggests Google, putting an appeal out on Facebook (‘I tried that, but it seems my friends have taste when it comes to television!’), and every other shortcut known to modern man. I’ve neglected to mention that the application deadline is in less than an hour – at midnight. I should really be making a move. We start talking books: he’s going to a literature festival on the weekend. Another five minutes won’t hurt, right?

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I check my watch.  ‘I’d better go.’

‘Oh – well – good luck with it!’ he says.  ‘And I’ll let you know how the weekend goes.’

Weekend… weekend…

‘Oh, the festival!  Yes!’


En route to the tube station, it occurs to me that the journey time to get home is longer than I thought.  That there’s no internet signal between here and home.  That my phone’s nearly dead.  That PC has no means of contacting me to let me know about his weekend.  That I might not even fancy PC that much, in which case I’ve put my career on the line (slight exaggeration) for a guy I’m not even that interested in, and with whom nothing will probably ever happen.  That I had better bloody end up marrying the guy!  That even if I manage to get hold of my mum, a phone call which will very likely wake up my dad causing all hell to break loose, she probably won’t be able to access my account and submit the application in the course of the three minutes or so that I’ll have on the line before my phone dies.  And that, as we approach my stop, I can’t find my bloody Oyster card!

I run up the escalator.

‘I’ve got an emergency!’ I pant to the guard.

I’ve been watching too much Casualty.

‘And I can’t find my Oyster card!  Please let me – !’

‘Go on.’  He waves me through.

There’s a guy loitering outside the security gate.  As I approach, swearing and gasping for breath, he wanders off.  I enter the code.  Nothing happens.  I enter it again.  Nothing!  He must have disabled the keypad with the wrong numbers.  I’m looking around helplessly when the gates start to open.  I slip through the gap and make a dash for the front door.  Key in lock, lights on, collapse on stairs, power up laptop.  Two minutes to go.  Connect to network.  Ninety seconds.  Flatmate tramps downstairs to see what all the fuss is about.  Log in to account.  Error message.  Arghhh!  Flatmate brings my stuff in from the step and closes the door.  Tick box to complete final section.

‘I’m too late!’ I gasp.

The screen refreshes.

Would you like to submit your application?

That’s a stupid question.


I trudge back to the tube station, Oyster card in hand, and thank the guard.

‘Was – was everything OK?’ he says, looking concerned.

‘No, not really.’  I feel a bit ashamed.  ‘But I found my Oyster.’

He looks surprised but doesn’t enquire further, only swipes the card.


I emerge into the open air and glance at my watch: quarter past midnight.  My bracelet catches on my coat pocket.  I laugh, and head for home.

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