Battersea Life... the Story so Far


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Jun 24, 2008
I've been asked if i could re-post these again, in case there are any newer forum members want to read them.
for the rest of you, sorry for the repetition!

Battersea Life - Episode 1 - Don’t Look Now

Dawn Hanson screwed up here eyes and sucked on the last millimetre of her Silk Cut, threw it sulkily to the ground and twisted out the remains with the scuffed toe of a Zarkon boot . Pulling her pink cardigan further round her against the chill, she cursed the men in suits who forced her to smoke in the car park overlooking Jack Richardson’s “garden”. The garden was, in reality, a couple of thrown-together benches in front of some tatty looking trellis. Without the abundant pots, vases and baskets of flowers which were shipped in from the local garden centre for shows, it looked more like something a tramp would think twice about bedding down in. Dawn tutted under her breath as she turned away, trying to remember when she was next on with Jack. She couldn’t stand the arrogant little gnome and the feeling was mutual. Jack made it very obvious that he considered a woman’s place to be “In The Kitchen” and not in his garden. There was one exception of course, this being “Queenie” as the channel’s most senior presenter was known - Jack was perfectly happy to brown-nose those who could influence the scheduling if he thought it may get him a couple of extra hours.

Dawn brushed cigarette ash off her velour jogging bottoms , licked her index finger and scratched with her nail at the dried Spaghetti Bolognese stain that had been festering in her lap for several weeks. It was slowly fading, a few more cracks at it and there’d be no need to wash them at all. Dawn avoided washing things she’s obtained from work, as they invariably ended up two sizes smaller than they started, something Dawn could ill-afford to happen. And lets face it, if the gusset started to pong a bit, no one was going to notice were they?

Heading back to the studio, she reassured herself with the thought that the average viewer was so dazzled by the “smoke and mirrors” effect of TV home shopping that they didn’t have a clue what they were buying most of the time, let alone notice a few stains round her crotch. The only people who did seem to notice every tiny flaw were that lot on that website, who, as far as Dawn was concerned were a bunch of saddos who needed to get out more. Most of them were harmless, discussing their crafts and their favourite Yippee Candles, but there was a smaller more sinister contingent, a few jealous bitches and a couple of nasty queens who seemed to delight in discussing her on-air bloopers with great delight.

“What’s next then Tarquin?” she called to the production assistant who was leaning on a TV camera poking his belly button with the business end of a ball point pen.
“McCluff.. Studio 4, ten minutes” he replied without looking up.
“That’s McCLOUGH” she replied, pronouncing it “McCloo”. “Why the feck didna someone tell me?”

She didn’t wait to hear Tarquin’s reply, instead detouring sharply towards the dressing room suite and breaking into a trot. Why hadn’t someone said she was doing a McClough show? If she’d known she wouldn’t have eaten that family sized pork pie for breakfast, and with Drew McClough on the premises she’d have made sure she was looking a damned site more foxy than she did right now. She looked at her watch, 9 ½ minutes to air… should be just enough time. She reached her shared dressing room and headed for her own area. Piles of polyester and nylon garments crackled against each other as they lay across her chair and the dressing table heaved with spilt make up, empty coke cans, used cotton buds and dirty tissues. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, the hair was so greasy it would have made seal fur look dry and unmanageable. It was a right mess but there was no time to make any impact on it now. She grabbed her Essential Minerals blusher and swirl/tapped/buffed a few times over the shiniest bits of her face, applied some Gayle Merman lippy and squirted some nuclear-strength breath freshener into her mouth (Drew was a non-smoker). Then she turned her attention to the clothes. Six minutes to go and she was still rifling through the pile, searching for something that didn’t look like a left over from a jumble sale or smell like it had been used for wiping down a chip pan. With an increasing sense of panic she realised there was nothing suitable and checked out her reflection again. There was NO way she was working with Drew looking like this, there was nothing else for it…

Dawn looked both ways behind her down the corridor as she slowly turned the handle on Queenie’s dressing room. It was deserted. “Roberta?” she whispered… “are you in dear?”.
She knew that Queenie wasn’t working today, but you could never be too careful. Dawn had once visited her dressing room to “borrow” a gold popcorn watch. She’d been happily admiring it on herself in the mirror only to realise that Roberta herself was stood behind her with a face like a smacked ar*e. That had taken some explaining, and Queenie had never really trusted her since. She didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

There was no sign of anyone. Dawn tiptoed over to Roberta’s expansive walk-in wardrobe. She was faced with row after row of brightly coloured sequinned tops, hundreds of gypsy skirts, boxes of shoes with Polaroid photos of the contents stuck on the front and a Pilates machine which was stood on its end festooned with tights and belts. For a few moments Dawn just stood there, awestruck, gazing at the selection before her. Then she pulled herself together and began to rifle. Her magpie instincts drew her eye to the glitzy items which had been given their own section of the wardrobe. These were the rare expensive pieces, “thank you gifts” from grateful designers who had sold or were still selling merchandise on the channel. As senior presenter, Roberta had the pick of who she worked with. The fact that she was most often involved in luxury skincare, fine jewellery and the higher end of costume jewellery and fashion was not a coincidence. Dawn couldn’t remember the last time she’s seen Queenie present a technology hour, and she would never be seen on a food show, eating on air was NOT in Roberta’s contract.

There was one good thing about stealing Queenie’s clothes, Dawn thought, at least they’re going to fit. There’s be no chance of stealing anything from that other scrawny arsed witch, even though her stuff was classier. Despite the difference in “personal style” Dawn and Roberta were not far from each other in size. Dawn plumped for a mid-range purple butterfly sequinned top and, breathing in for all she was worth, hastily wriggled into a pair of Roberta’s Power Knicks . A pair of Kath & Co pants which were so ridiculously long that she had to tuck them into her Zarkons completed the look.

She arrived on set with seconds to spare before her intro. The director made a sarcy comment about having “more fags a day than I did when I was on holiday in Mykonos” but Dawn chose to ignore and concentrated instead on her spiel…. And of course Drew.
Drew McClough was the spokesman for McClough Premium Foods, a brand that had sky-rocketed in popularity since being launched the previous year. He was a PR man’s dream, being large, avuncular, verbose and prone to wearing traditional highland dress to promote the meat produced at his abattoir in a grim suburb of Glasgow. The gusto with which he demonstrated his wares was matched only by his over-zealous flirting with the female presenters. He was apparently unaware that most of them found him repugnant. But not Dawn.

Dawn was mesmerized by this pot bellied, kilt wearing butcher. When he described his products in that rich, familiar accent it was like “coming home” and she hung on his every word, his Fillet Steak made her mouth water, his Tongue made her squirm and his Sausage made her weak at the knees…. In his presence she became a 16 year old again, giggling at his jokes and flushing a bright shade of salmon pink from her décolleté to her forehead. He was a dream to work with, she allowed him to run the show, interjecting only when required with prices, item numbers and stock updates. When he said that he hadn’t met a woman yet who “didnae enjoy the taste of ma meat” she almost fainted.

As always was the case with McClough, the show whizzed by in a whirl of innuendo, giggles and hot, wet flushes. At the climax, as she ran through the review, she had a strange feeling that all was not well in the studio. She heard the director take a sharp intake of breath, and the producer exclaim “sheeeee-yat!” in her ear-piece. Dawn hadn’t a clue what was going on, and as she rattled through item numbers and ways to order she was looking forward to popping off to the canteen for a cosy cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich with Drew (The pork pie seemed like hours ago and she apart from a couple of steak and kidney pies she hadn’t eaten much during the show). Yet there was something very VERY wrong….

As the final notes of the McClough theme tune faded away, a chill wind blew across Dawns face. She turned to the sound engineer who was removing her mic pack, and as she looked over his shoulder she realised why the atmosphere in the studio had changed.

Dawn gulped.

Towering in her platform mules, like some evil colossus, in a dark corner of the studio yet bizarrely still wearing a pair of huge sunglasses, a chinese-style designer top which Dawn knew for a fact had been stolen from a show, hair pulled up into a “pineapple” and a slash of bright pink lipstick, stood Roberta Jones - Senior Presenter and the first woman on UK shopping television. She was talking animatedly into her mobile phone but Dawn was sure that behind those sunglasses her eyes were fixed only on her, or rather on what she was wearing.

Roberta finished her phone call, removed her sunglasses and gazed at Dawn through narrowed eyes. Moments passed but it felt like hours. Finally, as Roberta took a step forward, Dawn realised that the entire crew was silent, intently watching events unfold. Four more steps and Roberta was stood inches away from her, Dawn felt her bowels loosen and for a moment was thankful for the Power Knicks. Roberta sneered, then suddenly raised her hand and….
Battersea Life Episode 2 - The Egos Have Landed

Roberta Jones took a step forward, Dawn realised that the entire crew was silent, intently watching events unfold. Four more steps and Roberta was stood inches away from her, Dawn felt her bowels loosen and for a moment was thankful for the Power Knicks. Roberta sneered, then suddenly raised her hand and simultaneously waved and shrieked at someone over Dawn’s shoulder:
“Abi…. ABI!! ……. ABEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

Dawn winced and turned her face away, Roberta was only inches away and her breath smelled of the Cabbage Soup Diet (item no longer available) which had been one of the channels monumental failures from a couple of years before. As a result, hundreds of sachets of the noxious powder had been distributed to female presenters free of charge. By the management. Far from being a charitable act by their employer, it was actually a hint from the bosses that several of the on-air team, Dawn and Roberta included, were considered to be too fat for TV. Roberta hadn’t taken it at all well but after studying herself long and hard in her full length mirror had decided to comply.
Roberta hissed at Dawn “I’ll see YOU later” before flouncing off in a fug of cabbage-breath and J-Lo’s “Glow” (the concept of “that’s a little young for you” did not exist in Roberta’s book)

Abigail Jeung was the channels resident beauty expert. Described as a cool blonde, this was an understatement as she could in fact freeze water with the raise of an eyebrow. She was also an expert sales woman whose figures continually topped the league tables at the channel. This was the woman who famously sold a 27 piece “Models Love It” make up set (an “Amazing Special Value” item 222975) to a 98 year old man who had called the 0800 number by mistake in the belief that it was the funeral director. His wife had just died. “DON’T buy her this” said Abigail “She doesn’t’t need it…. Now how are your daughters coping? You do have a daughter I gather? No? how about a daughter-in-law who needs a new look for the funeral?”. The sale was in the bag. In the world of TV home shopping this woman was an icon. She was also the only presenter who actually ran her own department. She fired buyers frequently and with relish. There was no room for mistakes, no second chances. No-one got old whilst working for Jeung.

She was on her mobile phone as Roberta approached.
“Abi, babe, I need urgent hair advice… I’ve had it coloured again and…….”
Abigail silenced Roberta by holding up her hand palm outwards in the “STOP” position and placing it against Roberta’s nose. She carried on speaking into her phone…
“How much do they want for that? No way… no… tell her if she can do 100,000 units at 20 then we can talk, other wise tell her we’re going with DeColore for the ASV.”
Still with one hand up against Roberta, she pressed a button on her phone to pick up a held call.
“Yes I‘m still here….that model you sent yesterday, the blonde one. She tried to speak, do NOT send her again. In fact, sack her. Yes, you heard me… sack her from your agency. Look I don’t care if…. Excuse me? Let me make myself clear, do you LIKE having the contract for supplying this TV station with models? Right, well I think we understand each other then.”

She snapped the phone shut without saying goodbye and turned to Roberta, looking at her as if they had never met before.
Roberta pulled a Scrunchee out of her hair and shook down a mop of frizzy hair.
“look at THIS” she said pointing at her head. “I had it coloured yesterday and its come out all wrong” her bottom lip trembled “what am I going to do?”
Abigail perused the frazzled mess for a few seconds then barked
“222152. Use three times on three consecutive days. The third time you use it, layer it with 221630. Leave it in for 3 minutes and 25 seconds precisely. Any shorter and it wont work, any longer and you‘ll be bald. Rinse. Rinse again. Rinse a third time. Then for the next four days use 221981, applied as a masque. That will do the trick. And leave the colour alone for christ’s sake Roberta, or you’ll have no hair at all…… And have you been sunbathing….?
Roberta giggled
“It’s Eek-A-Tan! Honest!” she lied . She flicked back her hair in an exaggerated movement, and a few wisps detached and wafted slowly to the floor. “I’ve got to dash and get changed hun, I’ve got an hour of Diamonella with CTB and you know what she’s like!”

Alison Conan, known as Conan the Barbarian, or CTB by her colleagues, was by anyone’s standards a TV professional. In readiness for her hour of Diamonella which, inexplicably, she was required to present as a two-hander with Roberta Jones, she had arrived in the studio 30 minutes before air time. She had already closely studied the trolley which contained all of the samples of cubic zirconium jewellery which were to be sold during her hour. She had then pre-prepared an appropriate anecdote for each item and scribbled notes on the green card which contained the product information. It was very unlikely to happen, but any hint that she might be running out of things to say would simply require a quick glance at her card and the anecdote would be ready and waiting.
“I was fortunate enough to have a bracelet like this in genuine diamonds for my birthday recently. Obviously it was much more expensive than this but you really couldn’t tell the difference…”
“When my daughter started studying for her PHD - she’s at Oxford - I bought her a pendant like this as a good luck charm.. It was real diamonds but we do worry about her losing it. No need for YOU to worry though, not when its good old Diamonella…”

Alison Conan had never “dried” on live television and did not intend to start now. Her preparation was her insurance policy and, she was sure, made her more engaging to her audience. She looked at her watch and tutted. Five minutes to the hour and where was Queenie? Probably trying on some hideous new purple sleeveless “top“ as she called them. Alison glanced in the monitor at her own appearance. She was, as the saying goes, “put together”. She would not wear clothes provided by her employer unless it was required as part of a fashion show, in which case she did her best to disguise them by pushing up the sleeves or turning up the collar. The clothes she normally wore for work came from high end London stores, her shoes and accessories matched perfectly. She was manicured, pedicured, tanned , made up and coiffed to perfection. And most importantly of all… she was skinny.

Roberta Jones wobbled onto the set with 4 minutes to spare, bosoms heaving in, or rather out of a purple sleeveless “top“ … in her book, being here this early was way beyond the call of duty, but Conan did have a habit of getting tetchy if things were rushed.
“Hi hun…. Haven’t seen you for ages!”
“Hello Roberta… you look marvellous! Had your hair done? And I have to say I adore that top… is it one of ours?”
They air-kissed half heartedly and Roberta plonked herself behind the desk.
“I think it’s just a Karen Millen actually”
“oh lovely!” said Alison. “Now, I’m all prepped up as usual. Did you do your prep earlier?”
“No need to prep hun, I can do this with my eyes closed, as you know” Roberta emphasised the “I”, the implication being clear.
“Oh you’re a pro and we all adore you for it. Still going, after all these years, and years…. And years.”
Roberta seethed inwardly, after her bad hair day and Dawn Hanson stealing from her dressing room again she was NOT in the mood to take anything from this stuck up madam. CTB had been trying to steal Roberta’s “crown” since she joined the channel. Just because she’d done a brief stint on mainstream telly with “It’s Morning! With Robin and Joanie” she thought she was something special. Roberta girded her loins, flicked her hair and gave Alison a dazzling smile:
“Yes Ali its been a long time. I pride myself on how far I’ve got in this teeny weeny little world of shopping telly.. And I’m sooo happy that I’ve never had to compromise my position to get here.. Y’know not like some of them? I mean, can you imagine anyone sleeping with ANY of that lot on the fifth floor just for a few extra hours on air? It’s happened you know…..!”
The silence that followed was only interrupted by the director “Two minutes to air please… Two minutes everyone”.
Alison Conan’s smile was fixed. “No I hadn’t heard that. Who on earth could you mean I wonder? I daren’t even ask! Ha ha Still with your background in theatre and dance I’m sure you know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to getting to the top. I heard you were the one who could always throw your legs up higher than everyone else…….and wider”.
Roberta couldn’t hold it in any longer “What’s THAT supposed to mean you cheeky cow? I’m not the one whose on her second husband with a boyfriend on the side”
Alison responded immediately “Well no, you’ve never quite managed to make it down the aisle have you Roberta.. couldn’t you find a dress to fit? Or wasn’t he ever really bothered enough? It must have been so hard for you both.. A second rate trumpet player and a bit part actress with fat ankles and a smidgeon of ambition to get on the television. I‘ve seen it so many times before you poor poor thing. Those of us who are broadcasters in the true sense of the word have so much to be thankful for”
Roberta was incandescent with rage.
“BROADCASTER? HA HA who are you trying to kid? A few stand-ins for Joanie Flannagan when she was too pissed to get to the studio and you think you’re a broadcaster? By the way, did the husband try and feel you up or was he gay that week? Don’t tell me you didn’t know he was AC/DC? Maybe he thought you were a man? Just do me a favour darling, you couldn’t broadcast yourself out of a paper bag OR back into a job on mainstream”
The director, realising that things could be about to go horribly wrong : “Thirty seconds to air everyone, THIRTY SECONDS TO AIR”
Alison Conan gathered her green cards, shuffled them as if she were about to read the news and placed them carefully back on the desk in front of her. “I think we should leave this for now, don’t you Roberta? I’m a professional. I have a CV in legitimate TV as long as your arm. I am everything you always wanted to be, I am successful…..”
“stuff it you cow”
“I am happy…..”
“yeah right….. Bet your husband isn’t”
“I am wealthy…..”
“What are you working here for then?”
“But most of all Roberta, I am THIN!”
Their earpieces bleeped
“that’s 4 seconds, and 3, and two.. Smile everyone, lots of energy…. and GO!”

Roberta: “Good evening and welcome to THE shopping channel. I’m Roberta Jones and I’m delighted to be presenting an hour of Diamonella with Alison Conan. Ali, what a pleasure! we haven’t worked together for AGES!… ships that pass in the night etc”
Alison: “Yes Roberta, no idea why…. they must be trying to keep us apart!
Both: “ha ha ha ha ha”

To be continued in Episode 3, Clarisse Dutton and Frances Jilks star in “Dumb and Dumber”
Battersea Life - Episode 3 Dumb and Dumber

Katy Tyler ran her fingers through her unruly mop of rat coloured hair and studied her reflection, scowling. Her appearance was decidedly matronly, the ever thickening waist, shelf-like bosom and clumpy shoes belied her earlier career as a svelte Olympic figure skater.
Katy had just fluffed and burbled her way through a Selection hour which had been even more painful than usual. Every demonstration had systematically gone wrong, even those tried and tested routines which the presenters fell back on time and time again. The Handy-Vac had left a trail of cat hair and Rice Krispies which was plainly visible even after three sweeps backward and forward. It turned out that a hose was disconnected at the back, something that should have been spotted by the floor manager, but by the time Katy realised what the problem was her Director was screaming in her ear to “move on, move ON for Christ’s sake!”.
Next a locket from the “Faerie Follies” range, which was supposed to open to reveal a tiny fairy dangling on a thread of gold chain, had steadfastly refused to open. Katy had tried every possible way, broken two nails and had even started to glance around the set to see if there was a handy Magic Knife that she could use to prise open the gold coloured charm but no such luck. She resorted to chirruping brightly “Well not to worry because it’s just as beautiful from the outside” before fluffing the item number three times and reading a tease for a “Hot Grab” offer which turned out to be a “Summer Pick”.
She could have curled up and died.

By the end of the hour, the Director was slumped over the desk with his head in his hands, Katy had a migraine and dark circles had begun to form around her underarms. She had managed her usual cheery “Thanks and goodbye” before leaving the set and heading for her dressing room, and that’s where she was now, staring at her reflection and miserably contemplating her future.
Katy would be the first to admit that she’d been lucky. After her athletic career had ended she had been invited to do some sports presenting for the BBC and to everyone’s amazement, not least her own, she had been good. She was comfortable with both the subject and the personalities and it was like chatting with mutual friends about a favourite hobby. This had led to a long stint presenting “All Abroad”, a holiday show which had run for decades with various presenters. All of her pieces to camera were pre-recorded and her familiar face and bright demeanour were a hit with viewers. Little did the viewing millions realise how much tape ended up on the cutting room floor. Bluffing her way onto “Breakfast With Britain” had been the pinnacle of her career but her star soon began to fade when it became apparent that she simply could not perform live. She saw out her contract but no-one was surprised when it wasn’t renewed. That’s when Katy decided it was time to start a family.

Two adorable children later, it was a chance meeting with Alison Conan who had done stints on “Breakfast…” but was now on shopping telly, which had secured Katy an audition with the Channel. The suits were desperate for a “name”, someone with a recognised pedigree in mainstream TV. Conan has been their first coup but as the cable TV revolution began to rev up they wanted more familiar faces who would be there to welcome millions of new customers. No-one else was beating their door down and Katy Tyler was hired. The rest, as they say, was history.
Katy had now put in hundreds of hours of live TV but bizarrely her performances got worse and worse. No-one understood why, least of all Katy herself. Her sales figures were kept afloat by the loyalty of her audience, all now middle aged veterans of “All Abroad” and “Breakfast With Britain” who trusted Katy’s word and enjoyed her ordinariness and her fallibility. However enough was enough, Katy was beginning to dread going into work, a dark cloud of depression sat over her during the drive into Battersea and a sinking feeling lurked in the pit of her stomach as she crossed the threshold into the channel’s HQ. She hadn’t slept properly for months and had taken to pestering her doctor for sleeping pills. He’d told Katy to lay off them but she even found herself taking one in the afternoon if she could safely fit in a nap between shows. It seemed to help… a little.

She had considered going to one of the hundreds of presenting classes which were available around the country, one day “workshops” or one week residential courses in camera technique and the other basics of taking direction and presenting. Attended by a motley collection of wannabe’s and has-beens, they had sprung up as a result of the Reality TV boom where everyone thought they could be a television star. However Katy had realised that turning up after twenty years as a jobbing TV personality would make her the laughing stock. She could imagine some 24 year old media graduate copy writer bitch at HEAT having an absolute field day if word got out.

She was at her wits end. It wasn’t getting any better, she was a failure.

Suddenly it dawned on her, there WAS a way out. The kids were older now, and her husband capable and in a good job. The days when Katy had been the main breadwinner were over, she wasn’t really needed any more. The more she thought about it the more it made perfect sense. An end to the humiliation, no more dieting, no more competing, and what a message it would send to the Suits at the channel. They’d certainly have trouble brushing THIS unexplained disappearance of yet another presenter under the carpet when the circumstances got out. Almost elated, she opened the draw of her dressing table and reached towards the back where she knew she would find, spilling from their container, dozens of tiny forbidden sugar coated tablets that she’d become to rely on so heavily. A half drunk can of Coke (full fat) was left from that morning… but wait… a note!. She MUST write a note to explain why, it was only fair to her friends, to the fans….

She scooped up a handful of the brightly coloured tablets and shovelled them into her mouth, chewed briefly and swigged back the cola. Taking a piece of white writing paper and a pen from the draw she studied it for a moment, deciding where to begin. A tear plopped down onto the paper…she scooped up another handful of Smarties, shoved them in her mouth, slurped the coke and as the sugar rush kicked in she began to write

To Whom It May Concern:
It is with deepest regret that I am tendering my resignation….

Frances Jilks was, on the other hand, in no doubt about her capabilities. She for one was NOT going to be throwing in the super-plush micro fibre towel unless she had to. Frances was by no means the sharpest knife in the drawer but had always been super-confident in her own ability, from her days on stage where she appeared in pantomimes across the length and breadth of the south coast (mainly Bognor Regis to be truthful) she had always known she was destined for Stardom. After being told she was too old to play Peter Pan (again) she had dried her tears, picked herself up and taken a long hard look at what she could do next. She decided on a career in television and that personal fitness was to be her way in, lets face it, if that fat cow Rosemary Conley can get on television in a leotard, ANYone can.

Frances decided to do it properly - the hard way, college beckoned and it was tough, really tough. She almost gave in half way through, unsure of whether she had the ability or the mental aptitude. But Frances Jilks was nothing if not determined. She worked her butt off and it paid off. One week later was emerged from college with her NVQ in “Nutrition and Fitness”.
There had been loads of subjects - well two actually, “Nutrition” and “Fitness”… She could have stayed on for an extra two days and done the “Waxing” and she was tempted but at the same time she was anxious to put her new skills into practice. Luckily there had been no exercise involved in obtaining her qualification, this was fortunate because after lifetime of eating McDonalds and KFC Frances Jilks was as weak as a kitten. She was a prime example of the creature who everyone hates …. “I can eat what I like but I NEVER put on weight….” However she had the body of a 60 year old and the lung capacity of a 40 a day smoker. She was in no way “fit”.

She started mooching around at the Dancercise classes at the trendy Pineapple Dance Studios which was popular with media types. She soon became friendly with the staff, gossiping with the receptionists who knew everyone and everything. It wasn’t long before Frances Jilks had identified a list of targets, people who worked in TV and worked out at Pineapple. She systematically worked her way through them, casting each one aside as it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to help her in her quest, until finally she met a man who was a buyer with a shopping television channel and who was interested in launching a personal fitness hour. As Frances was doing up her bra after a hefty “workout” one evening she asked her new friend if he could get her an audition… the inevitable followed.

Frances Jilks spent the next three years demonstrating all kinds of fitness equipment whilst never actually expending any energy. If in danger of being asked to exert herself, she would masterfully direct attention at the guest or model. The simple task of dismounting an Elliptical trainer would have Frances Jilks gasping for breath and struggling to read out the item number. As Britain became fatter and the channel realised that there was more cash in selling beef burgers than there was in selling dumbbells, Frances Jilks was promoted to fully fledged presenter.

Frances Jilks had arrived.

Parker Philpott was the guest presenter for “Amazoo” cleaning products and enjoyed getting presenters involved in his demonstrations. He hadn’t worked with Frances Jilks since her promotion and was eager to make his mark. His two frying pans were ready, smothered in gravy browning and baked in the oven for 2 hours. One would be dipped in Amazoo Wonder Crystals whilst the other would be proffered to the presenter with a pair of rubber gloves and a Brillo Pad. Parker would then goad the presenter into donning the gloves and to try to make an impression on the baked on muck. Frances Jilks was unimpressed.
“I don’t really do washing up, I have a dishwasher” she said to Parker and a sideways glance at the camera.
“Oh go on, have a go” said Parker mischievously
While Parker proceeded to dip his pan into a bubbling vat of Amazoo, Frances Jilks tentatively applied the dry Brillo to the base of her saucepan. She dabbed at it vaguely and complained “Theres NO WAY this lot is going to shift… just look at it”
“Try harder! C’mon put some elbow grease into it!” squealed Parker with delight “youre not even trying!”
Frances Jilks scrubbed harder than she had ever scrubbed anything before… which to the rest of us was the equivalent of running a match along the rough edge of a match box. Gasping uncontrollably she staggered slightly as if about to pass out
“Park… er.. I ca…nt scrub any……m…m…more!”
Parker giggled and took the pan off her “Lets see how you did then”. He dabbed the area with a dry cloth revealing some faint scratches where Frances Jilks’ Brillo had skimmed the surface.

“Hmmm not very good. I‘m not having you round to do my dishes!” He removed his own pan from the boiling water to reveal its spotless base. The gravy browning had been immediately dissolved by the boiling water, the soapy Amazoo crystals being completely coincidental to the impressive looking results. Frances Jilks gasped again…”that is AMAZING!”
“No its AMAZOO!” exclaimed Parker.
In the channel’s call centre, phone lines lit up.

In the executive suite, sat in his large leather chair, Mr “Big“, the senior suit at the channel stroked the white Persian cat which sat in his arms and watched Frances Jilks on the monitor, a look of distaste on his face. He had been watching the days programming, fish wife Dawn Hanson, ego maniac Roberta Jones, incompetent Katy Tyler and now this gasping fool Frances Jilks. It was time, he decided, for a shake up. Or should we call it a cull? Sneering he turned on his heel and headed for his office…..
Battersea Life - Episode 4 - The Cull

Mr “Big“, the senior suit at the channel stroked the white Persian cat which sat in his arms and watched Frances Jilks on the monitor, a look of distaste on his face. He had been watching the days programming, fish wife Dawn Hanson, ego maniac Roberta Jones, incompetent Katy Tyler and now this gasping fool Frances Jilks. It was time, he decided, for a shake up. Or should we call it a cull? Sneering he turned on his heel and headed for his office…..

Once at his desk, he opened a drawer and took out a handful of the publicity photos used by the channel to send to viewers who rang in asking for an autograph. He fanned them out Like a pack of playing cards across his desk, the presenters stared back at him, glassy eyed, smiling vacantly and airbrushed to perfection. He picked each photo up in turn and studied it closely, brow furrowed. He knew he had to be ruthless, it was time to clear out the deadwood. But who was to stay and who to go? One by one he began to place each of the cards in one of two piles on his desk…

Pepper Gorman – Probably the edgiest presenter in the channel’s stable. Popular with viewers but increasingly pre-occupied with her other career as a singer. It hadn’t taken off yet, and if the CD Mr Big had been given was anything to go by it never would – but what if it did? He didn’t like surprises and he liked resignations even less. It was important that he maintained the power, he called the shots…

Sylvestra Cloud – Ex model, ex guest and ex interesting. Yes she was beautiful indeed but Sylvie was happily married to a handsome business tycoon. She didn’t really need the job. She certainly wasn’t hungry for it… not as hungry as some of the newcomers, not as willing to “please” Mr Big as he might have hoped…

Clarisse Dutton – Even on the glamorous publicity photo she looked more mummy than yummy. She was popping out babies at a rate of one a year, and with each one she became more distracted from the business of selling. It was now normal to hear Clarisse speaking to a caller as if addressing one of her toddlers.. he hovered over the two piles and then placed her photo down carefully.

Holly Faraday – A stalwart and a favourite with viewers since day one. She rarely put a foot wrong, was reliable and had managed to have kids and a family life without turning into something from the Stepford Wives. But Christ she was in need of a makeover, the hair hadn’t changed in 14 years, the suits were more appropriate to a meeting of the Women’s Institute and she was getting decidedly matronly… maybe her time was up?

He went through the remaining women, Katy Tyler, Frances Jilks, Dawn Hanson, Alison Conan. Each photo was carefully placed. Now the men, Frank Shanklin, Anthony Pickles, Brook Charles, and fashion “guru” Niall Diamond.
Soon he was left with just two photos. Roberta Jones and Alison Jeung. He studied at the images long and hard wondering if it were really possible to do this. In his younger days as a TV executive he would have dropped the axe without a second thought. He had been known for his ruthlessness, that’s how he had got to the top. But there was a great deal at stake here, he had to be very careful, would it be a step too far? Would the viewers go for such a radical move? Would they go for his unique plan? Finally he made his decision and placed the photos down – one in each pile. That was it… it was done.

Dana Battey sighed as she dragged her portable crafting trolley out of the back of her Volvo estate and slammed down the hatchback. She was in Battersea again and she would rather be anywhere else, preferably somewhere hot. She was knackered, her marriage to PJ was in tatters and the last thing she wanted to be doing was a day of Amazing Special Value for yet another bliddy crafting kit. Dana Battey was almost solely responsible for the boom in crafting on shopping television. She had pitched her idea to the channel bosses many years before, and had been allowed as a trial to bring a few kits from her Bradford shop to sell. No-one could have imagined how it would take off. The channel’s demands on her had increased to the point where she was delivering an ASV every month and a “Crafty Crafters Day” every three months. From being a cheery northern girl with a talent for making cards, she had turned into a hard nosed business woman who was constantly on the verge of telling someone to f*ck off simply because she was so tired. She had met her exceedingly handsome Spanish husband Pepe Jamon at a craft fair where he had been selling the Spanish version of “Sticky Blobs“. They were cheaper than her normal supplier and she’d put in a massive order. PJ saw the size of the cheque and immediately fell in love.

Dana walked into the studio, saw the roster and felt like puking. It was that bitch Saira Griffin who was presenting her hour. Saira was one of the new blood, very much in favour with the channel bosses, she can and would turn her hand to anything – and if the groans and grunts coming from Mr Big’s office were anything to go by – any one.
Saira glanced up over her Mac compact at the yellow haired Dana approaching and smirked to herself. There was no love lost here, Saira’s interest in craft extended to the fact that she had discovered that Sticky Blobs were great to use as tit-tape when wearing one of her revealing low cut gowns. Saira had just got herself onto the red carpet circuit, having landed a bit part in a national soap opera. Acting was her true profession; she considered working at the Channel as valuable practice. It was definitely all an act here. She was now getting invitations to award ceremonies and premiers and she was milking the hell out of it. Roberta Jones had been overheard saying that Saira would go to the opening of an envelope….. Overheard by Saira. The jealous cow.
Saira smiled vaguely at Dana who managed a half hearted “hiya” and began setting up her table. Saira fiddled with things until it was time to go on air, and then the acting began in earnest. They were half way through the third item and Dana was finishing off a sample card when Saira cut her dead and moved onto the next item.
“Oh, we’re moving on quickly there then” said Dana. “That’s a shame because I know the viewers do like to see the……”
“So our next item is 582 412 our pack of 6 Sticky Blobs… “ interjected Saira smiling brightly at the camera. “And if you’ve used these before then please come through and tell us about it. These are a real favourite with viewers aren’t they Dana?”
“well actually yes they are, I remember how I first met PJ…..”
“And theyre selling VERY quickly so jump to the phones! You really don’t want to miss out on these” Saira interrupted again. A bead of sweat had formed on Dana’s forehead and a vein in her temple was throbbing. She stared at Saira disbelievingly
“are you going to let me finish a sentence?” she asked.
“Sorry? Is there a problem?” Saira looked upwards and pressed her finger to her ear.. the international TV signal for “shut up I’m listening to the Director”
“Yes there’s a chuffing problem” said Dana. “the problems called Saira Chuffing Griffin. Every single time I try and finish a sample or make a comment you ****** interrupt me. I’ve been here for nearly two days, I’m TIRED, PJ doesn’t want sex with me any more, I’m fat, my roots need doing and I’m fed up of you sticking your talentless chuffing oar into my craft hours. NOW WHY DON’T YOU JUST PISS OFF BACK TO EASTENDERS?”

There was a stunned silence which seemed to last for hours until both Dana and Saira jumped as the director screamed down their earpieces “FOR CHRIST’S SAKE CUT TO THE F*CKING PROMO!!!”

Upstairs Mr Big was about to put phase 2 of his masterplan into action. He had summoned his senior team of executives to a presentation which was going to literally blow them away and blow his career into the stratosphere. As the suits filed in and took their seats, the lights in the wood panelled presentation room dimmed and Mr Big’s video started. The familiar theme tune of the channel chimed out and presenter’s faces past and present smiling and happy flashed up on the screen in iconic clips from the channel’s history. Roberta Jones with a bubble perm selling a pencil at her audition, Dawn Hanson stuffing a sausage in her mouth, Alison Jeung, hair stood up on end while international hairdresser Micky DeCaprio blasted her with laquer, they were all there. As the music faded and the video screen filled with a still shot of the channels logo, a spotlight lit up Mr Big.
“It’s time to leave the past behind. To embrace the present and…. To face the future.
Reality TV is now the most influential programming on British TV. Four out of five people watched X-Factor last year, Everyone knows who won Big Brother. The people who appear in these talent seacrhces become household names overnight. For God’s Sake.. Jade Goody is the twenty first most influential woman in the world!
Colleagues…… friends…..The world of Shopping Telly has become stale, boring, same products, same old faces. We have to move with the times. Its going to be hard and we’ll have to say goodbye to some old friends, but we’ll replace them with new ones. Presenters who really know their market, because they ARE the market. Presenters who have been chosen by the very people they’ll be selling to, Presenters who are hungry to succeed, hungry to SELL!

Ladies and Gentlemen.. I give you our new search for the presenters of the future… I give you…


The video screen burst back to life, a new jazzed up version of the channels theme tune blared out deafeningly. And as the SHOP STARZ! Logo twirled out, the images of the channels favourite presenters faded and were replaced by black silhouettes of unknown replacements.

The audience gasped…..
Battersea Life - Episode 5 - Shop Starz!

A spotlight lit up Mr Big.
“It’s time to leave the past behind. To embrace the present and…. To face the future. Colleagues…… friends…..The world of Shopping Telly has become stale, boring, same products, same old faces. We have to move with the times. Its going to be hard and we’ll have to say goodbye to some old friends, but we’ll replace them with new ones. Presenters who really know their market, because they ARE the market. Presenters who have been chosen by the very people they’ll be selling to, Presenters who are hungry to succeed, hungry to SELL!

Ladies and Gentlemen.. I give you our new search for the presenters of the future… I give you…


The audience gasped……

Three Months Later:
Dave Crowe leaned his head on Frank Shanklin’s shoulder, the delight and shock that he had actually won was apparent. Shanklin beamed at the camera and reminded the watching audience of Dave’s journey to becoming winner of Shop Starz! As the video rolled, the production crew behind the cameras and in the gallery all applauded and shouted their congratulations. Even the contestants who had failed to get this far, and his immediate runner up Ned were cheering Dave’s achievement. The only person who wasn’t smiling was Roberta Jones….

Roberta Jones had been against the Shop Starz! competition from the word go. Her immediate reaction when she had been told of the plans was to feel physically sick, in fact she had disappeared to the ladies loo and had dry-retched over a stained toilet bowl. The winds of change had been blowing through the channel since Katy Tyler’s resignation. Did she leave? Or was she pushed? Yes, she had left a note but she hadn’t been heard of or seen since she had walked out that day, sobbing and shovelling M&M’s in her mouth. Shortly after, several senior presenters had had their on-air hours cut and the juniors had been pushed forward. Roberta could see where this was going. When news of Shop Starz! leaked, she had been the first in Mr Big’s office.

It hadn’t gone particularly well, he had been in his large leather swivel chair, gazing out over the railway and stroking that ridiculous white Persian cat which seemed to live permanently in his arms. He didn’t swivel when Roberta entered and she was forced to speak to the back of his head. Roberta was panicked but had made her case eloquently from the other side of the desk. This could NEVER work, she explained. An amateur presenter wouldn’t be able to cut it, look at the recent influx of rubbish (she didn’t mention names) they could hardly string a sentence together!.
Mr Big remained silent during her tirade, stroking the cat and gazing out at the power station. After a long silence he spoke….
“Roberta, you’re feedback is appreciated however you’re views are misguided. Reality TV is the most popular medium in the country. We produce lifestyle TV here, the two are indelibly linked. If you can’t see that then maybe its time to think about a change of career……?”
Roberta remained silent. She had worked for this man for long enough to know when it was better to keep it buttoned. He continued:
“Making room for a new presenter, maybe more than one if the standard is high, will cause us some difficulties. Of course Katie’s departure left a gap but who knows who will be leaving next?” He swivelled to face Roberta, gently released the cat and opened his drawer taking out the piles of presenter photos he had been working through before. On his desk, Mr Big had two document trays, the classic office set up, one marked IN, the other marked OUT. Roberta could only watch aghast as he dealt cards, poker-faced, and apparently randomly into the two trays. Many of Roberta’s closest friends and colleagues were being dumped in the OUT file, whilst some of her enemies, not to mention those two bitches Conan and Griffin were seemingly “IN”. As Mr Big came to her own photo he stopped dealing… hovering above the trays. For the first time he looked her in the eye.
“Roberta, no one here is indispensable…” with his eyes still locked with hers he carefully placed her photograph in the OUT tray.

Roberta felt her knees buckle for a second and she raised her hand involuntarily to her mouth in a silent scream as she stared at her own image. It took a moment for her to compose herself, but suddenly, she felt calm.
“Don’t worry, I know I’m not indispensable. I know quite a few other things too. For example I know about how Sylvestra McCloud was groped in the lift when she was a model and how she was going to file a complaint but was silenced by being offered a presenter job. Lets face it she wouldn’t have got one otherwise would she? I also know how Saira Griffin had to get down on her knees…. And yes I mean literally….. to get HER job and I know how that fat bird who models for Lift’n’Thin pantie girdles got more than she bargained for in dressing room 5 last week.”

Roberta put both hands on the edge of the desk and leaned forward towards Mr Big, her ample bosoms almost falling from the flimsy top she was wearing, eyes narrowed:
“I even know how Dana Battey’s husband PJ found someone spying on him while he was using the shower…. Some one we both know very very well. Oh yes, I know an AWFUL lot when I come to think about it. And if anyone , and I mean ANYone ever tries to put ME in an out tray I’ll have their goolies for knicker elastic. Now look here you slime ball, you can do what you like with the rest of those losers, I couldn’t care a toss. But when it comes to me, be very careful. And I mean very careful indeed.”

A week later Roberta was delighted to be offered a major role in the Shop Starz! contest. The e-mail which had circulated the channel announcing this made great play of her status as “our MOST senior presenter”. She would be involved at every stage, in the auditions where the finalists would be selected, and then in the weekly shows she would be joined by two other guests to offer critiques on each of the finalists sales presentations. Some of these guests would be real life celebrities – Roberta couldn’t wait. “If you cant beat ‘em.. join ‘em” she thought.

Whilst the voting for the Shop Starz! final had been taking place, and not wishing to miss a sales opportunity, the Channel had resumed normal programming with a Selection hour. Tara McAdam had flogged her Aurora Nights bedding for the first half, repeating her tried and tested mantras “soft as a puppy dog’s ears” “its like sleeping on a cloud” and “all our feathers are Uber-Cleaned” with depressing regularity until Brook Charles was almost comatose. Many had said that far from the Aurora Nights range being good for the insomniac; it was in fact Tara herself who had the gift of sending viewers to the land of Nod.
Brook woke with a start when he was advised via his ear-piece to change sets for the next product which was a Drax vacuum cleaner with guest Katerina Svett. Brook felt an involuntary twinge in his trousers and immediately flushed bright red. Whenever he saw, or in fact thought about the Amazonian Katerina Svett he was instantly aroused. She was German, with short cropped black hair, 6 feet tall, a slash of red lipstick and a penchant for wearing spike heels. She treated everyone at the channel, presenters, production staff and management in the way a dominatrix would treat their slave. And people responded as such. There was something about this woman that said “obey me”. It was probably for this reason that’s she was so successful in selling vacuum cleaners. As soon as she started her spiel, the phone lines lit up. She was a goldmine.
Brook had to surreptitiously adjust his underwear when she appeared on set. She looked amazing. Black polo neck sweater, black leather jeans and a pair of spike heeled boots that Brook had only ever seen in his dreams. He gazed up at her with puppy dog eyes and tried to stop fantasising about wearing a studded collar and lead.
Katerina could be relied upon to take control of a presentation and Brook was not going to argue. Within moments she had him connecting hoses and sprinkling Rice Krispies on a carpet.
“Now zis one is ideal for ze suction….its sucks very VERY hard and is perfect for ze shag”
“S-s-suction…?” mumbled Brook “Sh-sh-shag???????” He licked his dry lips and took a handkerchief out of his suit pocket which he folded and pressed against his upper lip.
“Zis is correct Brook, and look here now? Vee have zis long long thing vich reaches all zee vay up zee crevices… Zis is called zee Crevice TOOL”
“T-t-t-tooooooool” groaned Brook “oh yes yes indeed Katerina, I can see how that’s going to get into all you cracks and fann…… I mean nooks and crannies!”
“Zis is correct Brook, now I vish to suck your ball……”
For a split second there was absolute silence in the studio and gallery. Then Katerina rolled a bowling ball over with her booted foot and proceeded to demonstrate how the Drax could, with the aid of a funnel attachment, lift it clear from the ground.
“Your balls, zey are very very heavy” Said Katerina
“Yes, they are, rather…..” replied Brook
Brook thought must have died and ascended to Heaven.

Roberta sneered as the rest of the audience cheered Dave Crowe’s victory. She had disliked Dave from the very first audition. He had TV experience on another shopping channel and in Roberta’s opinion should not have been allowed to enter in the first place. He was, quite simply, much too good for her liking. As the competition had progressed she had done her level best to poison every one against Dave, without success. His bubbly personality and Somerset accent was winning people over in droves. During the live finals she had criticised him endlessly, yet despite her endeavours people continued to vote. As the competition progressed, the other contestants were whittled down one by one until the final 3 had remained. Dave, Ned and Pam.
Pam was cork-screw haired and dizzy, she looked fabulous on screen but was inclined to gabble inanely. The viewers agreed and she was first out of the final.
Next was Ned, the rugby playing giant, amiable but so so slow. Every word was enunciated with such seriousness that you would have thought he was reading news of the death of a Royal. Ned was Roberta’s favourite.. no threat here. She could guarantee that the one year contract which was the competition prize wouldn’t be extended for poor Ned. She would be safe.
But Dave Crowe was a different kettle of fish. She could already see how the producers were taking to him. He was a natural and he was going to be a hit with viewers. She despised him.

Frank Shanklin was winding up the Shop Starz! Final, the usual thanks were being made to all of the other contestants, to the judges, and especially our very own Roberta Jones.
“And now, all that remains for us to do is to say Congratulations and Welcome to our newest presenter Dave Crowe…. Dave, the last word goes to you mate!”

Dave Crowe took the microphone out of Frank Shanklin’s hand, checked the camera’s for the red light, located the one which was live and looked straight into the face of the nation.
“Just one thing to say, I’m obviously amazed and delighted I’ve won and I cant wait, literally CANNOT wait to tell you……oh yes, oh yes I cant wait….

I’m not working here, its too expensive. There’s plenty more like me on MY BUY TV, the countries BEST VALUE shopping channel. Come and join me and our team of friendly presenters. We’ve got all the bargains on MY BUY, we’re waiting to take your calls free of charge AND ITS FREE POSTAGE!!!…….YES ITS FREE POSTAGE!!!!!!”

Everyone was nearly deafened when the director screamed “CUUUUUUTTTTTTTT!!!!!!”
Battersea Life Episode 6 - Smoke and Mirrors

It had been a year since the Shop Starz debacle which had resulted in My Buy TV’s audacious plot to infiltrate the channel’s competition to find a new presenting star. Their “mole” Dave Crowe had not only reached to final stages but had won the contest and delivered his “Come and join us at My Buy” appeal live on air. As the share price plummeted, the channel went into a tail spin of the like never seen since SHOP! went off the air. Mr Big went missing and was later found washed up on the banks of the Thames close to the power station. Death by misadventure was recorded but no-one really knew how he had got there.

The new bosses decided it was best to stick with the things that had made the channel what it was, and to ditch the new fangled ideas that Mr Big had been proposing. Familiar brands with familiar presenters and guests. No weirdos, no controversy and most of all no scandal. Well… that was the plan.

Tara McAdam was on air presenting her Aurora Nights range of luxury bedding. It was autumn and the height of flannel season. The mesmerising repetition of the tried and tested phrases “warm and toasty” “you deserve a good night‘s sleep” “the bedroom is your haven” “soooo soft and warm” continued to hook in the viewers who appeared to have an insatiable appetite for this range. Tara’s hours had increased and a second guest had been employed as a back up, such was the demand for more and more product and more and more hours on air. Tara should have been the happiest woman on the channel, and she would have been… had it not been for the one dark secret that she was terrified would be revealed.

After finishing her presentation with Peper Van Der Valk, (who had inexplicably changed her name from Pepper Gorman recently) Tara headed for her dressing room. She had always insisted on her own room ever since joining the channel, a medical condition required her to self-administer a very personal procedure at odd hours of the day and night which would be unthinkable in shared accommodation. No-one on the production team had the nerve to enquire further, such is the politically correct age that we live in. Her request was granted and she had the room to herself. Now Tara entered and switched on the light, closed the door behind her, turned the key in the lock and leaned on the door heavily. She was exhausted, the strain was beginning to take its toll. She had been doing this for 6 years now and had never thought for one moment that it could have gone beyond a few appearances. If only she had known what she was getting herself into.
She sat at her dressing table and removed her false eyelashes, took a large tub of Elizabeth Pearle Spit and Polish cleansing cream and scooped out a generous blob, smearing it over her face and neck. Leaving the scented goo to dissolve the heavy make up she was required to wear, she began to unpin her wig….. The transformation was about to begin.

Coincidentally, Peper’s next hour was with Virginia Pearle herself. Pearle’s range of Actively Herbal skincare was the biggest selling beauty brand on the channel. Her appeal was that of the earth mother. All natural ingredients, no outlandish promises, sensible, no nonsense nice smelling stuff that women went mad for. The Spit and Polish alone had sold literally millions in various guises and was the major success story of the channel. Now the channel’s American counterpart was beckoning and Virginia Pearle was in greater demand than ever.
Peper Van Der Valk went through the motions, allowing Virginia to run through her spiel. Anyone who had seen the Actively Herbal presentations more than a couple of times would have realised that they were like watching a recording which was on a permanent loop. Pearle always appeared in soft focus, looking incredibly beautiful and fresh faced for a woman in her forties. The long hair in soft ringlets, a blush of pale pink on her cheeks and lips, the ample bosom encased in floaty tie-dye fabrics in pinks and purples. The whole effect was one of soft wholesomeness. In reality, and seen only by people on set, the story was somewhat different. Without the honey lights and soft focus lenses Pearle’s features were strangely off-kilter, the hair oddly textured and the bosom as little too high for a women her age. Peper perused this whilst making the appropriate presenter noises and reading off the item numbers and prices. What WAS it with Virginia Pearle? If an attempt was made to engage her in conversation in the breaks it was met with polite yes and no answers, and an immediate return to discussion about the product. Even mentioning her children would result in a stock set of answers “yes theyre adorable, even the youngest is using the moisturiser now and she’s only 6 months old.. Its never too early”. She gave nothing away whatsoever and after the presentation always left immediately to be whisked away in an anonymous looking car with blacked out windows. Today was no exception. After a successful show she graciously thanked Peper and the director and left in a flurry of ringlets, tie dye and a whiff of Anais Anais.

Presenter Clarisse Dutton was skipping through the dressing room area behind the studios humming the theme tune to Telly Tubbies when Tara McAdam’s dressing room door opened and Gordon slipped out closing the door behind him. “Oh hello Gordon! How are you? I haven’t seen you here for a while. I’ve been having another baby!” she simpered.
“Hello Miss Dutton, I’m very well indeed, just collecting some things for Tara. She forgot them when she left earlier. Congratulations on your new arrival, how many is that now?”.
“Erm, I think its… erm….” Dutton did a quick count up on her fingers. “I think its twelve now.. I could be wrong though. Theyre all totally adorable though. Honestly I ADORE them!”
“I’m sure Miss Dutton” said Gordon politely.
Gordon McAdam was Tara’s brother, a handsome ex air force captain in his early fifties, clean shaven with receding hair and an upright, military stance. He often ran errands for Tara, almost like a personal assistant although Tara would of course never suggest this was the case. All of the presenters had bumped into Gordon at some point or another, he was often around and had almost become part of the furniture in the same way as Tara. His manners were impeccable and somewhat formal as what his appearance.
“And how is my darling Tara? Is she well?” Asked Clarisse.
“As well as can be expected Miss Dutton, rather tired as I am sure you can appreciate. Although hiring Amy to back her up, especially on ASV days, has been a great help. We‘re very grateful to the channel for that”.

“Golly I bet you are Gordon, she’s such a delight - I ADORE working with her honestly! Ooh Gordon I just remembered, was that your BMW I just saw being hooked up to a tow away truck? it was parked on a double yellow outside?”
Gordon was already running up the stairs and heading for the exit shouting behind him “thank you Miss Dutton, the car park was full and as I was only visiting briefly I thought I’d be safe… perhaps you could have mentioned…”
And he was gone.
Clarisse put her finger to her chin thoughtfully “Ooh maybe I should have mentioned earlier…..oh well never mind. Oooh! Look at that!”
Tara’s dressing room still had the key in the lock.

Virginia Pearl arrived back at the hotel that was used when Actively Herbal was being shown on the channel. Her normal base on the Isle of Man was a little inconvenient when regular stints at the studio were required. A penthouse suite was hired at the hotel where Virginia and her entourage were regular and valued guests. As she came out of the lift on the top floor the smell of cigarettes was already pervading the corridor. Thank god there were no more rooms up here, it would be sure to cause complaints. The hotel must have to go to a lot of trouble to fumigate the suite after they had left, however Pearle Inc paid handsomely.
She tapped lightly on the door and entered the smoke filled room.
In the corner, a wizened old woman sat working feverishly at a computer, her face illuminated by the screen. An ash tray overflowing with cigarette butts was on the desk beside her, along with a half full bottle of Jack Daniels whisky and a glass. She had the appearance of a sixty or seventy year old, although in reality she was only fifty. A lifetime of tobacco, drink and deep tanning had aged her well beyond her years. To everyone at the hotel, and most people on the outside world this was Virginia Pearle’s faithful personal assistant Liz. In reality, this was the real Virginia Pearle.

“How did it go Wendy?” she rasped.
“Went well Miss Pearle. Four sell outs an’ one gone Limited”. The modulated voice heard on air had gone and Wendy was speaking in a strong eastend accent.
“Only four? You had a two hour slot! what went wrong?? Who was presenting?”
“It was Peper, I thought we done well.. Everyone seemed hap…….”
“Never mind that, I’M not happy! You’re going to have to buck up your ideas. Marsha is running you into the ground on sales now. And even Jo is catching up and she’s only being doing it three months” Virginia reached for the bottle and refilled her glass.
“That’s not fair Miss Pearle, Jo used to be a model on the channel, she already knew all about your stuff, the creams an’ the lotions. She demonstrated ’em all the time. She knew the scripts too!. I started from scratch!”
“Maybe so but youre too sloppy Wendy. See? you’ve already slipped out of character and gone back to your old accent at the first hint of stress. What happens if you do that live on air? I didn’t spend all that money on surgery for you to blow my cover by speaking like Barbara Windsor. Now, the next slot isn’t until 2300 and Jo is doing that so you’re finished for the day. Get changed, go to your room and study, and send in Jo for her pre-briefing”.
Wendy headed for a door which led to a suite of bedrooms and disappeared. Moments later, another “Virginia Pearle” appeared, this time ex model Jo. She looked exactly the same as the girl who had just left. She sat across from Virginia at the desk.
“I’m ready for my pre-brief Miss Pearle” she said.

Virginia Pearle had hit on the idea 10 years before when developing her range of cosmetics for the TV home shopping market. She knew it was going to be big and she knew that the most successful brands were fronted on TV by the people who’s name was on the bottle. However a life time of abusing her skin made it impossible. She looked like a California raisin after fortnight in Benidrom. Ithe idea of going on screen herself was a complete non starter. That’s when she came up with the idea of hiring a girl to appear in her name. After a lengthy casting process Janine was found. She was an actress who fitted the bill perfectly, the right look and sound, able to remember lines, familiar with the cameras from her bit-part career on TV, she was perfect. After intensive training on the product she made her first appearance on the channel selling Spit and Polish and it was a runaway success. The brand developed and grew and it was going so well until Janine got pregnant. It was a massive inconvenience for Virginia. However she worked around the baby’s arrival and things got back on course… and then Janine disappeared. In fact she had emigrated to Australia with her family and decided not to mention it to Pearle Inc. as she was clearly in breach of her contract. She knew that Virginia would not be able to pursue her for fear of being exposed. Virginia knew it too… the whole thing would have come out in the press and she would be branded a liar and a cheat… not a good “look” for a shopping TV brand. She wrote off Janine and came up with a new plan. And this one was foolproof.

Since then a total of eight girls had become “Virginia Pearle”, and six of them were currently in service. All of them had been given cosmetic surgery to make them look like Janine and whilst recovering would be put through rigorous training on how to act, speak, what to say and how to dress in order to continue fooling the viewing public. At the end of their contract, more surgery would give them whatever new look they desired, as long as it wasn’t that of Virginia Pearle any more. The surgeons knife, along with a rider that said that she always had to appear with camera filters and soft lighting meant that she was never discovered, although staff at the channel often thought that Virginia looked “odd” in some way. She was known as “The Stepford Wife” by bosses at the channel after the film where women were cloned and appeared to their husbands as the perfect housewife. No-one could have known how close to the truth they were and the real Virginia could never have believed how successful it was. It opened up a whole new range of opportunities, one girl could be in America, while another did photo shoots or promotional videos for the channel. With Virginia masterminding the whole operation from her computer, and by planning carefully how and when the girls were seen no-one had ever questioned the apparent workload that “Virginia Pearle” was able to take on. She was omnipresent, a Wonder Woman. An inspiration… wife, mother, mogul.
However there was one thing that Virginia hadn’t accounted for. Her latest recruit, ex model Jo had left the channel in “difficult” circumstances. She had soon got work with a rival channel who had also found her challenging to work with. Then she had disappeared back to obscurity… or that’s what the viewing public thought. In fact she was becoming “Virginia Pearle”. and now that Jo had become Virginia, she wanted revenge…..

Clarisse looked at the door, and the key, and back toward the exit where Gordon had disappeared. She tiptoed back along the corridor to see if she could see him… but he had gone. Back at the door of Tara’s room she put her hand on the knob and then stopped. She knew she shouldn’t be doing this, that it was a hideous invasion of Tara’s privacy. Tara was a friend, a colleague. But my oh my! Clarisse was curious as to why it was necessary for Tara to have her own room. Except for Queenie, even the most senior presenters didn’t get that, despite numerous tantrums and negotiations over the years no one had ever managed to secure one and yet Tara, a mere guest, had. Why?
She turned the knob and the door opened. Looking back along the corridor one last time she slipped inside and closed the door.
It was dark, and it reeked of Spit and Polish. She fumbled for the light switch and flicked it. A dim table lamp flickered on, it had a lace shawl flung over it to soften the glow even further. It was incredibly difficult to see and it took a while for Clarisse’s eyes to adjust. But as they did, and as she took in the contents of Tara’s room, they grew wider and wider.
A large dressing table with a professional make up mirror, surrounded by lightbulbs dominated the room. An over stuffed wardrobe with open doors was in one corner, and a full length mirror in another. A dressmakers dummy was to one side. The room was tidy but crammed full. On the dressing table were three “heads” each with a different style of wig. Clarisse knew that Tara changed her hair a lot but assumed she used hair extensions.. She looked more closely at the items on the dressing table, professional Steiner stage make up was in abundance along with false eyelashes and the paraphernalia that goes with applying a wig properly, pins and glue etc. Lots of cosmetics and the ubiquitous Spit and Polish There was also a plastic case containing what appeared to be a bridge of false teeth, the upper set only, which was clearly Tara‘s familiar but disembodied smile. She moved to the wardrobe and realised that the clothes were split into two halves. Tara’s signature tops, skirts and dresses on the left and men’s trousers, sweaters and jackets, seemingly Gordon’s stuff on the right. As she moved away from the wardrobe she noticed that the dressmakers dummy she had seen in the dim light earlier had something hanging over it. As she approached, her hand raised involuntarily to her mouth and she stifled a squeal. It was a body suit, a torso padded and shaped in the form of a woman with breasts and hips and a dozed or so stays up the front with which to fasten it securely in place.

Clarisse gazed around her for a moment. In the pink marshmallow filled cavity of her head she tried hard to make sense of what she had seen. So Tara wore a lot of make up and a wig, not a problem really - lots of people did that. And she was worried that she was too skinny, silly girl ought to have a boob and bum job, lots of people did that too! Clarisse turned to admire her own round bottom in Tara’s mirror which diverted her for a few seconds…She screwed up her face and thought hard, but why the teeth? And why are all Gordon’s clothes in her wardrobe? It was all too puzzling and her head was starting to ache with the effort of working it out. She decided to leave everything just as it was and get out of Tara’s room pronto. As she slipped out carefully checking for people in the corridor first, she decided that next time she saw Tara and Gordon together she would ask some very very clever questions to try and solve the puzzle. They’d be so clever that Tara and Gordon would never even realise she was playing detective! What fun! Then Clarisse realised….. She had never actually seen Tara and Gordon together. Hmmm, oh well never mind it cant be that important. She headed for the studio humming the Telly Tubbies theme. Within a nanosecond the entire episode was forgotten.
She also forgot to lock Tara’s room and to remove the key…
Thank you, BurlZx. I hadn't read these before today, and now I can't wait for the next installment.

Like all good satire (Yes, Minister, for example) I suspect it's not very far from the truth.
thanks for the great post, so funny

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Thanks so much for taking the trouble to post them again. I'm going to see if I can print them off then sit down and read them all - what a hoot, you are very gifted.
sides are aching,eyes are watering....
read some of the comments to my grouchy 15 year old if you can make her laugh you doing some thing good.
thanks for making my afternoon fun b.b.:5:
Thank you for re-posting I hadn't seen it before either. Really brilliant and so funny, you are indeed talented.

Lea x
Thank you so much Burlz. I have printed them and stapled them into a book for some great holiday reading. x
There goes the Farrow and ****** Ball. Am crying with laughter and me walls look like Jackson Pollocks. Where's me inhaler?

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