I’m standing on a desk in a year 10 classroom in a secondary school in Sheffield waving a Chinese flag - and it feels fantastic.
It’s because I’m working again, as a producer/director, making a short film for a publishing company to promote a GCSE Mandarin textbook.
It was a phone call out of the blue that did it, just one little phone call. All those years of waiting: years in which I cried for it, buried it, mourned it and finally let it go. In the end I was content, at last, to move on from my old life as a TV director to be ‘just a mum’ and a writer at home.
I waited so long for the phone to ring that I decided it never would, that’s why I called my blog, ‘I don’t know how she doesn’t do it’, because I don’t feel I do ‘it’, not like so many other mums, the ones juggling families alongside exciting careers. I was just a mum stuck at home with the kids. (I wanted to call my blog ‘stuck in the house,’ but that was already taken).
And over the years I’ve managed to keep myself busy with journalism but it didn’t really feel the same as my old job. It didn’t fill the need to get out of the house, to meet new people, to create something from nothing - not in the same way that TV and film making did.
I’ve worked with P before, many moons ago. He said he was ringing with a question. Oh yes, I said. I thought it might be some advice, a contact he needed, a bit of info about an article, but then he said:
“Would you like to help me make some short films? It will just be some producing, writing, keeping an eye on the narrative and then directing on the film day with kids in schools and helping with the edit?”
So here I am, up north, in a school, asking a group of Year 10 children to stand in a huddle and shout something in Mandarin. And it’s been a great day. I’ve been interviewing a teacher. I’ve been filming a Chinese lady writing Mandarin characters. I’ve been asking the children to do vox pops for the camera. It’s been fab.
And then we wrapped and I caught the train home to London, and as I walked up the long length of our road from the Tube at dusk - back to my house, my husband, our three sons - I was thinking about what it would be like to come home after a wonderful day’s work, now that I’m a proper I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it-mum. I will be pleased to see them. They will ask me how it all went. I will give them all a hug.
But when I walk in the door I see there’s mud up the stairs.
“What’s this?” I shout.
I go the loo and there’s even more mud all over the bathroom floor (and the cleaner just came this morning).
“Why is there all this mud?”
There’s no answer. I reach out for the loo roll. There is none.
“Why is there’s no loo roll! Why am I the only one who ever replaces the bloody loo roll?”
There’s a lengthy silence…
“I’ve just got in!” I scream, like a harridan. “I’ve been working all day! Can someone please get me some loo roll?”
“Get it yourself,” comes Eldest’s voice from somewhere very close by.