Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Story contd.

The first six months were a hard slog, going from one end of London to another visiting strange studios and leaving photographs. I didn’t mind the hard work but I was worried about the expense of travel and keeping up appearances with no money coming in from me. Throughout William was supportive and convinced me it would all be worthwhile and he was right. Slowly but surely I would be asked for by name and there seemed a justification for my phoning Paula twice a day.

When it comes right down to it people will turn a blind eye to the fact that you aren’t the tallest hollyhock in the bed. If they like working with you they’ll book you. I was somewhat of an oddity amongst all that urban sophistication. Since then, all the years of living with William nurtured a supposedly, pleasant speaking voice but at that time, if you think of a character that Jane Horrocks occasionally plays – a simple girl who ’comes right out with it’ - that was me in the fifties. No surprise that Jane and I were born and bred within a few miles of each other – in different lifetimes.

You still had to audition for important jobs and contracts and it was a reality check sitting in a waiting room with these gorgeous creatures – not just models but film starlets as well. Once I sat opposite Jill Ireland and although I never met Audrey Hepburn, she was around at the same time. I really had a problem with my lack of self confidence but one day I was sitting outside Paula’s office waiting to do my accounts, when I got into conversation with a very pretty starlet who was on Paula’s books. She was similar to Barbara Windsor - a cockney sparrow – I think her name was Vera, and she gave me a real good talking to.

‘You think they’re something special don’t you?’ indicating the photos on the wall,

‘Well let me tell you you’re every bit as special as they are and a bit more!’

I remembered that the next time I was feeling inadequate. It was kind and very

sweet of her.

William had to travel occasionally and whilst he was away I had three auditions on the same day. Having found great comfort in my loneliness from Havoc our corgi, I decide to take her into town with me and I’ll swear it was Havoc’s charm that got me all three auditions. One was for a colour film for Phillip’s Stick a Sole using me as me. One was for Bayer Aspirin for television and the last one was for Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry.

She got special doggy chocs that night!

William said I should keep a careful account of what I as earning as I would have to pay tax on it. I decided the best thing to do was to go and see the tax man and ask his advice. This probably sounds weird in this day and age but I didn’t think an accountant was necessary and was confident I could do it myself once I knew the rules. The man I saw was, to me, an elderly gentleman who was very interested in the whole business and helpfully told me all the things I should take into account in the way of expenses and that I should keep all receipts and dates of bookings etc.

It all made sense and I quite enjoyed a bit of book keeping. The payment was a bit haphazard. Sometimes the studio would pay you on the spot and sometimes the cheque would go straight to Paula. In any case we had to have a session every month to get the finances sorted. One day I left Paula’s office laden with cash and stopped in Leicester Square Underground to make a phone call. I discovered I hadn’t enough change and dashed into the tobacconist’s – purse in hand - leaving my handbag with a stuffed wallet and, more important, my diary with all my bookings. It was seconds before I realised and dashed back. But my handbag was gone.

I can still remember the sick feeling. These were the days when people were, on the whole, honest. I went to Bow Street Police Station, now defunct, and left my details but they didn’t hold out any hope. A few days later I received a parcel containing my handbag and diary – but no wallet. A thief with half a conscience?

At the studios you signed a release form and they told you how or for what the photograph was going to be used. If it was to be used as a show card they had to pay more and more still if it was a poster. Not all photographers were ultra careful about this and William was expert at spotting unpaid for show cards. One ad I did with a photographer who should have known better. A group of us were sitting round a breakfast table and we were told the ad was for marmalade. In fact it was for Family Planning which could have been upsetting for any Roman Catholics.

On the whole the people I worked with were friendly and helpful and I can only remember a couple of people who I found difficult. At last I had some money to spend and bought our first frig. We had never needed then in the north. The stone built houses had north facing larders as cold as any frig. We shopped more frequently in those days, and there were travelling tradesmen and plenty of local shops.

I bought a food mixer and whilst visiting a large store heard ‘A Lark Ascending’ playing on a radiogram so I bought that – the radiogram and the record. Then I pulled my horns in and started saving. On my nightly phone call to Paula she gave me the next days booking s and said she wanted to see me and it was very important. Oh dear – had I annoyed somebody?


AndrewM said...

That'd be a fridge then. Nothing to do with the rigging.

Nea said...

Difficult to imagine you annoying anyone.

PI said...

andrewm: when I'm a famous writer you'll be first in line for my personal editor. OK?

nea: that put a grin on my face. Thank you!

granny p said...

Another cliff-hanger - you're getting much too good at this. Oh God though - losing a wallet. Have done such things myself and doesn't it make you feel ill.

f:lux said...

Did you have to drink lots of Harvey's Bristol Cream then?

PI said...

grannyp: even worse when you translate the money to today's values. But at lest they weren't total bastards or they wouldn't have returned my diary.

fjl said...

You are for sure a special lady.

kenju said...

Vera must have been an angel. There were not many of them in that business!

I know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when losing your purse/wallet. Luckily you at least got the diary back.

Dr Maroon said...

Jill Ireland was really something. There was documenterary about her when she was dying and it made me admire her even more.

Blisterin' barnacles! losing money is a total sickener. Betcha your husband wasn't totally understanding either. We can't help it Pat, it's the way we're made. It's much better to keep such facts from us.
Harvey's Bristol Creme is still a Maroon family favourite, as is aspirin (and Philips stikee-sole now I think about it.) Great British products that conquered the world! Apart from the Bayer asprin obviously. Don't tell me they're German.
Marmalade/family planning, I love it.

PI said...

f:lux: just a bit. It was a very jolly shoot!

fjl: I don't know what to say to that but thank you!

Judy: she was also very funny. She had a boy friend - Arthur who was a would be Mr Universe - a real muscle man and at her interviews and auditions she would always bring out his photos trying to make him a star. She was the first person I ever saw wearing lilac stilettos. Quite a gal!

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I love it that you were like Jane Horrocks! She's great!

Our cat's called Trouble but I think I like Havoc better.

PI said...

Sam: Betty Jackson the couturier comes from the same place and Jane met her at a function and told her proudly she was wearing one of Betty's creations. Betty sniffed and said it was three years old and she wasn't going to make much money out of Jane.
Two typical Rossendale traits- thrift and tactlessness.
I heard of two cats the other day named Havoc and Mayhem.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Apparently Frank Skinner's cat is called Chairman Miaow. Well I thought it was funny.

I remember that feeling of having money in the pocket for the first time. I did some spending, too, before getting sensible. Such fun.

PI said...

Zinnia: I agree it is funny. I am careful with money but still enjoy a rare splurge. And Missus how about all the books you are buying?????


You met Jill Ireland??? That Jill Ireland??? The married to the late great Charles Bronson Jill Ireland???

Much better actress than she was often credited. A bit like Charley who was way better than people thought - mainly 'cause of Winner n Death Wish (which I actually love)

I'm rubbin' shoulders with a celeb here. Don't do Big Brother babe whatever they offer!!!

PI said...

4d: the very same but she was relatively unknown then. as for BB I would sooner - as my # 2 son says - stick needles in my eyeballs.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Ah, the books I'm buying. Ahem. Well, yes. Er. Research??

PI said...

Zinnia: yeah I knew you'd say that.
It takes me ages now to get down to reading but am really enjoying that Shaggy Dog as bed-time reading.