I have a problem. Ok, I had a problem. I don't like wankers. I still don't, but I've learnt to ignore them.
It was the late Nineties, at the BBC. I had worked my way up from a runner and was now working in post-production, helping maintain several edit suites to make the finest prime-time dross for people to ignore their families to.
There was a guy who worked in despatch called Bryan who thought himself God's Gift to women. He thought this because he was rather tall. Taller than me, and I'm six foot. He was darker than me too, but then so's Dangermouse. And he was good-looking, with a cheeky smile and a naughty wink. Now I see myself as a pretty decent guy, but I won't win any modelling contracts. Having said that, neither am I the Elephant Man, especially since I had all that reconstructive surgery. Some close personal ladyfriends have even used incredibly flattering adjectives about me that I'm not repeating here.
But Bryan was unpleasant. Women to him were commodities to fuck and disgard. And contrary to what a lot of women believe, most men aren't really like this. A lot pretend to be, but most guys just want to be loved like any other human being. Most just want to be loved by lots and lots of women. But Bryan, as far as I was concerned, went beyond the usual male banter. It disturbed me. And it grated me further because he had women flocking towards him in droves and he didn't even have the decency to be a nice guy about it.
Fine, ok, I felt more than a twinge of envy. I'm that transparent. Here was a guy telling me about the women he's fucked and currently fucking, and letting it be known how many he's got dangling. Conversely, it was taking me months, if not years, to meet just one woman to share some quality time together.
Hang on, it still is.
So here's this guy. A bit of a cunt.
In the meantime, I'd accrued a month of leave which I had to use or lose, so I booked a solo trip bumming around the Middle East when it was marginally less dangerous than it is now.
My replacement was to be Bryan. Despite being aquaintances, I was very unsettled by management's decision to choose him. I didn't like the guy, although I thought I was being a bit pathetic in worrying about him.
But then there was Sophie. I really liked Sophie. She worked on my programme as a researcher and was as cute as hell. Friendly, soppy, and often frequently indifferent towards me, but still as cute as hell. I tried getting to know her a bit better while she'd relish her ability to make me go bright red in several seconds flat.
A few days before I left for my trip, I was escorting Bryan around the edit suites to get him acclimatised. Sophie was nearby. After leaving an edit suite alone, she frantically beckoned me over to her desk.
'Who's that guy, Fwengy?'
'Oh, that's Bryan,' I said casually, feeling a little twinge in my chest as I did so. 'He's taking over from me while I'm gone.'
'God, he's gorgeous.'
'Hmm. Right. Ok.'
She didn't look at me once. She was too busy trying to get a view of his shoulder from beyond the window of the closed door. I also remember thinking 'Why couldn't she keep her thoughts to herself?'
So I go to Jordan and Israel and get third degree burns. I walked around the rose red city of Petra. I had a shave then went for a swim in the Dead Sea - Big Fucking Mistake. I met a Danish guy called Mads and watched in amazement as two girls literally pulled him out of a bar in Tel Aviv, only to hear about this threesome he suddenly found himself having, when I next saw him. And every day during the trip, I'd wake up miserable wondering if Bryan had actually managed to fuck Sophie yet.
I couldn't wait to get back. But things had changed. A year earlier, when I first took the job, I'd replaced two people and was doing their work by myself. I'd been angling for a pay-rise. Management now had a new offer. They had this Bryan eager to leave despatch and work in editing with me. I didn't like it one bit. I discussed it with lots of people as I had a chance to turn them down and carry on alone. I even talked with Bryan who suddenly looked different. He looked scared, as if, I know now, I held his future in my hands. It made me feel guilty. I started to cave in. Plus he wasn't so bad. He was actually quite chummy. Perhaps this would be ok.
Alright, this is all written in hindsight, but at this point, everything I disliked about him was in my head and I thought myself a tad irrational. Ok. Sod it. Bring him on board. I actually like making people happy, and this would do it.
We fell out almost immediately. Bryan palmed all the tough jobs onto me, while he did next to nothing. All he was good at was schmoozing the women in the production office, an office largely made up of women. And they loved him. I'd been there a year and we'd all got on pleasantly. But he would flirt with them outrageously and they'd giggle and laugh and flirt back. The main editor hated him and told me that Bryan was taking credit for things I'd done. Failings were attributed to me. Looking back, they were strangely exciting times. While they were happening to me that moment, it felt as if my entire career was falling to pieces.
One evening, Bryan refused to run one suite because he wanted the one I was in, the one that Sophie was in too. Her name never came up, but I knew he'd put his foot down as soon as I discovered she'd be in there. Bryan and I had it out. Things got heated. Production had to intervene and a 'meeting' was arranged the next day. When I got there, Bryan was already in the room reclining in a chair and chatting lightheartedly with two female production members. I walked in and sat down to face all three of them. It felt like I was being re-interviewed for my job, with Bryan in charge. I was starting to lose the plot. I remember I was shaking, partly through fear, partly through anger.
'So Fweng, what's the problem here?' asked Caroline.
'It's that cunt' I yelled unashamedly, pointing at Bryan.
'Oh Fweng, it's really not the done thing to use language like that', said Bryan grinning from ear to ear. I may as well have asked them for my P45.
'I can't do this job any more. I want him out. I've struggled to do this myself for this long, but I can't do it with him here.'
It was a gamble that paid off. Bryan was slung back to despatch after a few weeks but by then the damage was done. The women in the office resented me for removing that fine man from their sight, my reputation had gone for a burton, and I discovered that Sophie and Bryan had that fuck. Actually, Fucks plural. Repeatedly.
Time passed. My job was reassigned and I managed to get a new job on a new programme in a different part of London. It was minus a wanker, but worse on many different levels. These new people didn't like me from the beginning and I was starting to passionately hate television folk; the bitchiness, the backstabbing, the fact that I was starting to think it normal to be told I was 'fucking useless' on a weekly basis.
I chose not to go to the wrap party when the programme ended. So too had my media career. I went home. I stayed there. I went on the dole while I fruitlessly looked for another job. Weeks turned into months. I gained a lot of weight. My self-confidence plummetted. I took to wearing tracksuit bottoms to disguise my expanding waistline from myself. When I had nearly spent all my savings, I snapped myself out of all this nonsense. I was only 25, dammit! I had a life to lead! I was going to get every aspect of my life back on track. I made some charts. I planned a diet. I found a gym and was due to start my regime the next day. I went to bed that Sunday ready to take the world on and win!
Monday, the first day of the rest of my life. I went to the kitchen and had a fruit breakfast and plenty of water. I got a gym bag together. I freshened up and headed into my room where the TV was belching out a godawful DIY programme. I smiled to myself. My life would've been dedicated to churning out exactly this kind of dross.
And then my smile dropped.
There was Bryan, on my television. He was fixing a lightswitch and flirting with the camera as he cockily advised how best to secure it to the wall. He had a cheeky smile and a naughty wink. Once the switch was fixed, he turned to face the camera and said, 'Hello fuckhead.'
True story. Apart from the Hello fuckhead bit.