What DO I Do? Here’s What I Have Learnt Today…

It has come to my attention in recent times that I don’t actually know what I do. Career-wise, I mean. I am very aware of what I do on a day-to-day basis. I know when I am showering, putting on socks or eating a Bourbon biscuit in an all too cavalier fashion. On a daily basis I am very aware of the things I am doing. No, what I mean is that when it comes to knowing what my career is, well, I don’t. I know that sounds ridiculous, like a frog that can matchmake with the help of marzipan and some berries; but it’s true. Here is a quick list of what I do/can do/have done; Presenter; event host; writer; producer; film maker; pork pie maker (did it once, to be fair); but upon being introduced to people and them asking what it is I do… I’m stumped.

My “career” has always been in radio: firstly as a producer and then as a presenter. However, as of January 2011, I left radio. Or radio left me. I suppose we both agreed to go our separate ways. Sometimes (quite often, actually), I miss radio. I miss the way she made people smile, her encouragement when I wanted to have fun and the way we shared mutual friends. I miss her free spirit, spontaneous nature and, if vanity will allow – and it will – I miss her attractive figures. I know the time was right to leave each other but, if she asked me back, I’d be a fool unto her all over again. Radio is the Ava Gardner to my Frank Sinatra, the Liverpool to my Kenny Dalglish (but with better results) or the Tonight Show to my Jay Leno (although I’d prefer Conan were still there if I’m honest. Which I am).

The point of this being that if someone asks me what I do now I no longer reply “I’m a radio presenter”; no more than I’d reply, “I’m such and such’s boyfriend” after 3 or so years of being single (I did actually know here name, by the way; that wasn’t the reason we broke up). I have never understood on TV game shows or the news when people are described as “an out of work builder”. surely if you’re not working as a builder anymore; you’re not a builder! Mind you, that said, I suppose Sir Paul McCartney hasn’t been a Beatle since 1970 but you’d still allow him to say he’s a Beatle. Ah man! I am more confused by the second…

Getting back to where this blog once belonged, I do have friends who introduce me to people as a writer (to be fair to them they do introduce me by my name first. My friends are good like that). I always find this a bit awkward because, although I have written scripts, (local) magazine articles and various ideas or press releases; I am no more a professional writer than you are a reader. Simply because you’re reading this, I dare say you won’t go around telling people you’re a professional reader. If you do then that is all and well; but I wouldn’t claim to be a fireman just because I’ve blown out a few candles in my time. Actually, that said, I may start to tell people that because firemen do sound fun.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to write. I’m not one for bragging (ok, apart from the hint at the radio figures but that wasn’t me: that was just people choosing to listen) but if I had to be forced into it, I would probably be able to claim that I can spell at least half of the words I know. In fact, on this very page, I probably know about 97% of the words I have written (I’m pretending to hear your onomatopoeic “gasp” as I type…). Just because writing is my hobby and, in certain aspects, I’m not horrendous enough at it that it warrants accidental glimpsers the desire to set fire to their very own eyeballs, I am still not sure I can call myself a writer. I’d like to; I just don’t think I can.

By a similar, if not the same token, I love playing football. However, if a Premier League club saw me playing I very much doubt that I’d be approached to sign for them (“very much doubt” gives a hint that, despite being over 30, I’m not ruling the possibility out entirely) because, by my own admission, I’m not really very good. In fact, if they DID approach me then I’d probably have to have a word and decline. “Look,” I would say, “I appreciate you have seen something in me that I haven’t seen in myself but this isn’t a Karate Kid and I’m not Daniel”.

That said, if a magazine or blogging site approached me to write for them, I would recognise it as being something that not only I would want to do: I could probably do it better than extremely badly. I could do it “almost well”. Good, at a push. In that respect I recognise that I could indeed be a writer. I probably wouldn’t even mention Karate Kid at all. Unless I was asked to write about Karate Kid. Then I would definitely mention it.

Following a recent and eventful move to Buckinghamshire, another aspect of my career – albeit a false one – has arisen from the lips of those around me. As previously mentioned in earlier blogs, I moved down there to be with friends and to work alongside them on a variety of projects: one of which was the co-writing of a sitcom (of which some has, indeed, been written). An additional agreement of my moving southward was to help look after my friends’ child when they were busy. Now, without going into details of any sort (there was a press release which took care of all that), events unfolded which meant I was frequently involved with school runs in the morning and after school. I enjoyed this. For me it was novel, it was fun and my friends’ child is a proper little wing man when the school run Mums are at the school gates. However, it was only when I was in the local pub one evening (little man was with his Mum: I didn’t just wander off like a forgetful squirrel) that I discovered what my supposedly new career was.

I walked into the pub and introduced myself to the lovely barmaid with the twinkling eyes and the ability to give me a drink that wasn’t simply orange juice.

“Hello”, I said, “I’m Al”.

“Ahhhh…” replied sparkly bar eyes.

This is where I thought she must have heard of my previous career. My friend must’ve mentioned that I hosted a live stage event with Will Smith or that I’d been to Number 10.  Maybe my friend I was writing the sitcom with had told her that it had recently been picked up by a global distributor. I will readily admit that in my radio days I would have bored on about such things. Now, though, in a more mature light, I don’t do that. It’s not actually very impressive or, more importantly, gracious. Instead, upon hearing her question, my plan was to nod coyly, make a throw away remark about nothing in particular and engage her in general chit chat…

“Ahhhh…” she said, “You’re the manny!!”

“The what???” I replied, as fallen as any crest that had gone before.

“Yes. You’re the manny”, her eyes still twinkling but now suddenly less alluring.

“I’m not a manny!” I protested, not entirely sure what I was protesting about but assuming “manny” was a male nanny.

“Yes, you’re Al. You’re the male nanny”.

Well, at least I had got that right.

“I’m not their manny. I used to be a radio presenter. Will Smith spat on my microphone!” I unashamedly splurted. “I’ve been to Number 10… JK Rowling spilt my tea!!”

“Number 10?” she thoughtfully pondered, “That’s next to the pond, isn’t it? Where such and such live…”

Such and such you say..?

In the current present of the now, it has been agreed that I am no more a manny than I am an established writer or a still-existent radio presenter (although I do actually have more experience of those two things). One of my friends from the little village in Buckinghamshire, upon hearing my description as a manny, came forth and announced that I “work in media”.

“Really? What do you do in the media?” asked one of the locals.

“Oh, you know… ” I replied, “such and such”.

So, Here’s What I Have Learnt Today: Bourbon biscuits are better eaten if you scrape the chocolate centre off with your teeth. Oh, and it’s always better to find out what other people do instead of offering up what you do. If nothing else, it gives you time to think of an answer other than, “Oh, you know… such and such”.