Read Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes Online

Authors: Sue Watson

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor

Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes (8 page)

BOOK: Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I will never work in telly again,” I announced, to anyone who would listen, “but what a send off.”

7 - Family Fun Day
 

The next morning I woke to the sound of a ringing telephone cutting like a knife through my skull. I was so hung over I couldn’t even think of breakfast – which is usually my first thought of the day. Our response to the disastrous show the previous evening had been to fall into the nearest pub and get wasted. As I gently picked up the receiver, snippets of the evening came back to haunt me. Al and Gerard singing karaoke, both fighting to be Lily Allen, and me and Denise drinking weird cocktails until way past last orders. I was wondering what a glass of ‘Rampant Monkey’ actually consisted of as I held the phone gently to my ear.

“Stella, its Peter here. I insist you come down to the set immediately,” was all I heard. This had the effect of a bucket of cold water and I just knew this was bad news and I was about to be sacked.

I gathered myself together, dragged on some clothes and staggered to the set. When I arrived the garden was empty, with no sign of Peter, or anyone else for that matter. In the silence I heard the hopeful chink of crockery and my Pavlovian response was to head for the catering tent. At times like this I never saw the point of fight or flight – why do any of that when you could eat? I decided to wait for Peter and console myself with something tasty. Approaching the tent, I swept back the canvas doorway and was greeted with loud crockery rattling and shouts of “Hurrah!” I couldn’t believe it: everyone was there and the catering tent was decorated with balloons and streamers. Through the many faces I could see Peter holding a glass of what looked like champagne. Was I still dreaming?

“We’re a hit,” came Al’s excited voice from my side. “The ratings are through the roof! We’re already the most watched on BBC iPlayer, and don’t get me started on You Tube.”

I half smiled, by now convinced this was definitely an alcohol-fuelled dream. Then I was enveloped by Peter; “Stella! My love! Congratulations and thank you. That was pure comedy. Another series will be in the bag by lunchtime!” It slowly dawned on me that I might actually be awake after all and my jaw hit the floor. “Everyone’s talking about it,” he continued. “It was so
real,
they’re saying. Glad you took my advice, I told you to keep it loose, my love.” He gave me a sleazy wink. I couldn’t remember the Head Gardener ever giving me that bit of ‘advice’.

Oh well,
I thought,
now isn’t the time to resent him taking the credit, I should just enjoy the success
. I sipped the glass of cold champagne thrust into my hand by Al and tried not to move my aching head. I nodded and smiled at everyone and laughed along politely at the amazing – and frankly, unexpected – positive comments. A disaster live on air had turned into an overnight success and instead of being sacked, I was applauded. That was TV for you.

I looked round the tent at all the smiling faces and at Al jumping up and down and hugging Gerard. Of course I was delighted the show was a success but I found I couldn’t completely enjoy the moment without worrying about the havoc it would cause at home. I was happy and relieved, but my underlying emotion was panic. If this series was going to be as big as Peter was suggesting then the producer would need to be here 24/7 for the next hundred years!

Mum called me the next day to congratulate me on the success of the first show. I was just sitting down with Al to plan the filmed footage for the week when my mobile rang. I checked the display and smiled.

“It’s Mum,” I said to Al. “I’ll be five minutes.”

“Ok doll, I’ll grab a coffee. Say hi to her for me.” I nodded and picked up her call.

“Love, it’s Mum” she announced (she’d never quite got the hang of caller ID). “I saw your show last night and tried to send you a message on eBay but it wouldn’t go through...bloody technology. Anyway it was great dear. That vicar’s wife is hilarious – has she had Botox? I was saying to Beryl, she looks very good for her age.”

“Thanks for calling Mum, was it really OK?” I said.

 “Oh yes, it was great, love. I was saying to Beryl, we should get some of that,” she started.

I sensed someone behind me and as Mum wittered on about the advantages of Botox I turned to see Al waving at me. Peter Willis was standing next to him, obviously keen to have a production meeting. “Mum, it’s a bit crazy here, can I call you back?” I said, signalling to Al that I was winding up the call.

“Well you can, but I won’t be here dear – I’m stripping for the old soldiers.”

 “Oh?”

“Yes, I told you about it last week. The over-fifties are redecorating their sheltered homes, don’t you remember? Lovely old boys. I’ll ring you tomorrow then. Bye dear.”

I hung up and smiled. Ever since Dad died five years ago, Mum had been like a woman possessed. She was desperately trying to claw back some life for herself and, as she put it, ‘taking what’s owed to me’. I knew we were in trouble when at Dad’s funeral she got pissed on Babycham and did a spontaneous rendition of Rod Stewart’s
Hot Legs
in the vestry. Five years, a 62-year-old toy boy and two cruises later she declared that ‘sisters are now doing it for themselves’. And it seems that now they were doing it for old soldiers, too. I put my phone in my pocket and went over to join Peter and Al.
Perhaps our next series should be about life after bereavement featuring Mum as the star turn
, I thought with a smile. That would certainly be a ratings winner.

 

 

A busy week followed our first live show and despite my joy at our success I had a sinking feeling it was going to become even more manic. It’s all very well being the producer of a ratings-winning show but as the cliché goes, you need someone to share it with. As I planned and rehearsed and shot footage in the week, all I could think about was Tom and Grace coming up the next Saturday; I was almost beside myself with excitement. But then the Friday before their visit I received a call from our Press Office that changed everything.

“Stella, I know that it’s short notice,” announced Ella the Press Officer, “but I’ve arranged a photo shoot and press call for first thing tomorrow. It’s a quiet news weekend and it would be amazing if we could get stuff in the Sunday papers.”

“That sounds great Ella, but I won’t be around tomorrow. My family are coming,” I started.

“Oh Stella, no, you have to be there. You’re the producer,” she said, alarmed. “We need to strike while the iron’s hot, everyone’s talking about last week’s programme and there’s a kiss-and-tell from one of Denise’s ex-boyfriends rumoured to be doing the rounds. This is all great publicity for the programme and you’re a major part of it – in fact quite a lot of the papers have requested an interview with you, especially after the mud-wrestling scene.”

After some negotiation with Ella, we agreed that I would be available from 8am for two hours. During that time I would be around to answer questions and help ‘supervise’ our contributors. After that Ella was on her own in the mud with our cast and the World’s press and I would be able to spend the day with Tom and Grace who would arrive at 10am.

Of course as often happens with these things, when Saturday arrived the press junket went on far too long and photographing Denise in her various outfits took an eternity. I was talking to a reporter from the TV pages of
The Mirror
when I saw Tom’s car pull up and out of the corner of my eye saw them greeted by Al who I’d asked to take them on a tour of the set, with promises that I would be there asap. At eleven o’clock, an hour after our agreed time, I rushed anxiously from my last interview and found them outside the catering tent. I almost burst with joy. Grace ran across the grass to embrace me shouting at the top of her voice, “Mummee, Mummee!” I swept her into my arms and hugged her for so long and so hard and it felt wonderful. I buried my face in her shampoo-scented hair and kissed her a hundred times.

I looked up from Grace to see Tom standing next to us and I held out my arms for a hug. He moved awkwardly towards me holding out his arms and we embraced stiffly. It didn’t feel right and I had a dipping in my stomach. “I’ve missed you,” I whispered in his ear, still locked in our uncomfortable hold.

“Me too,” he whispered back. “Let’s get out of here. I saw the vicar’s wife on telly – she’s scary, let’s make for the hills,” he smiled.

 “Oh Tom, I know. I just need to do one more interview, two at the most. The show’s really taken off!”

Tom’s response was to roll his eyes and turn away from me. I felt sick, but I had no choice so I carried on, turning to Grace and avoiding eye contact with Tom.

“I’ve arranged for Daddy and Grace to have hot chocolate and muffins in the tent while Mummy just sorts something out quickly.”

 “Yummy, yummy,” she squealed, clapping her hands together and jumping up and down.

“It’s vital that I just deal with this now, while we’re on the up,” I said, looking pleadingly back at Tom. “If I can stay on top of this I’ll be offered the next series and I reckon I’ll be able to name my price and my working hours and you and Grace must want a drink and something to eat after your journey. We really didn’t expect it to be such a success. I had no idea the world’s media would descend on us today.” Tom smiled reluctantly and took Grace’s hand.

“Come on sweetie. Let’s go and get some hot chocolate.”

“But what about Mummy? Doesn’t she want hot chocolate too,” I heard her ask. As I walked away in the opposite direction, Grace was clutching my heart in her little hand.

Feeling a little weepy, I trudged back over to the throng of journalists, cast and crew. I could see Denise waving her skirt around and Bernard looking decidedly uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe I was walking towards this rather than away; I was horribly torn. I was deeply grateful for finally receiving recognition for all my hard work, yet if this was only the beginning it obviously came with a price.
Be careful what you wish for
, I heard my mum saying.

After three more interviews I saw my little family standing patiently waiting on the other side of the garden. Muffins and hot chocolate now a distant memory, Grace in her red T-shirt was sitting in the warm June sunshine, staring up at the trees and Tom, his hands in his pockets was nodding towards a squirrel, to Grace’s delight.

I finally extricated myself from the melée and almost ran across the grass towards the two of them, apologetic and tearful. Even Tom could see how distressed I was and for once, held out a life raft.

“Don’t worry about it,” he smiled. “You’re here now. Come on Gracie, let’s take Mummy out for lunch.”

This was a rare glimpse of the old Tom, the one I’d fallen in love with. He was essentially kind and caring and never used to bear a grudge. After the weeks of telephone silences and sulky conversations this glimpse of the old Tom overwhelmed me and as he started the car and we moved down the drive, I burst into uncontrollable tears.

Grace was confused and kept asking; “What’s the matter Mum? Why is Mummy crying?” and each time she asked, a fresh wave of sobs enveloped me and I became engulfed in so much emotion I just couldn’t control it.

“Mummy’s fine. Sometimes grown-ups cry when they’re happy,” I heard Tom say, looking at me with some concern, patting my knee reassuringly with one hand and holding the steering wheel with the other.

We drove for at least half an hour, trying to find somewhere to eat. Then just when it all looked like it was going pear-shaped a Harvester appeared, like a mirage in the Rochdale desert. I wouldn’t normally be so delighted at the sight of a Harvester, but Grace loved them and it was well after lunch time. We were all hungry and at this restaurant I could fill up on salad from the cart and tell them ‘no chips, please’. Once at our table, Grace placed her paper napkin neatly on her knee, sipped on cola and created a city on her Nintendo.

“I’ve missed you both so much,” I said, kissing her cheek and grabbing Tom’s hand in mine. “Thanks for coming all this way to see me.”

“We’ve missed you too Stel. I know this programme is important for you and it’s great it’s done so well, but I – well, I wonder, is it worth it?”

“I know, I’ve asked myself the same question every day. But it’s hard to just give it up and say goodbye. It’s who I am. Mum always said ‘you have to have a career, Stella’, and to be honest, I don’t know what else to do.”

Tom smiled at Grace and concentrated on folding his napkin into a tight little roll.

“You’re Grace’s mum and my wife. That’s who you are too. We’ve talked about this before, you could go part-time or at least try to work from the office more, rather than working away. Yes we need two salaries but we could manage a pay-cut if it meant you could spend more time at home. You get so involved in everything Stella, you really throw yourself into it, always promising to slow down ‘after the next series’, but then there’s always another and another.”

“I love that you want me home and...” I started.

“I suppose what I’m really saying Stella, is – can’t you just get an
ordinary
job somewhere that doesn’t involve long hours or being away?”

I felt the familiar stirrings of anger that Tom seemed to evoke in me these days. For a moment there I thought he understood. I was wrong.

“Look, I worked bloody hard to get a job in TV and now I’m working bloody, bloody hard to
keep
the job in TV. I am not prepared to throw it all away for what you call, ‘an ordinary job’, riding the tills down the sodding slave-driving superstore.”

BOOK: Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes
2.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
Catching Her Bear by Vella Day
The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh
The Pegasus Secret by Gregg Loomis
Whiskers & Smoke by Marian Babson