'Well here's the bad news,' she interrupted as I continued to think through my options. 'There's this audition...'
'A television commercial for (*well known product*), and they're looking for (*essentially stockily-built easily sunburned gingers*) and you have to wear swimming trunks for it.'
'They're filming on a beach, hence the trunks.'
I decided to give my Mum the chance to finish before I told her to get stuffed. After all, I've never had any desire to appear on the TV sets of a million people with my gut out, and that wasn't going to change any time soon.
'What's the good news?' I asked with a sigh.
'It's in (*big Antipodean land mass*) on (*hot famous beach*)'
'It's free flight and accommodation to a 5-star hotel overlooking (*famous Antipodean land mass beach*), and they're paying (*£stupid*)!!!'
I paused. That bit sounded pretty good. I just had a problem with the public humiliation thing.
And, once I thought about it, another trip abroad, alone. Yes, I'd be with, y'know, complete media strangers, but I'd really be alone again like when I'd backpacked and met virtually no-one, and this would be a very long way from home, doing something absurdly surreal.
'What?,' my mother snapped. 'You don't want to do it?'
'It's just that, y'know, it'll be in public and there'll probably be a crowd of people watching, and I'll be all semi-naked and everyth...'
'Awww,' she began - not a motherly, comforting ahhhh, more an angry, revving-up to an argument - before shouting all the bullet points back at me.
Which, yes, admittedly, amazing.
'But I'll have to audition,' I argued, 'and I'm not going to get it.'
'Not with that bloody attitude.'
Damn woman. This was going to be like that audition a few years ago where I had to remove most of my clothes, and yell 'I am Boris Becker' from 4 different angles including, for some reason, the back of my head.
I didn't get that gig either, but I did vow never to do fucked-up starving actor shit like that again. Truth is, I kinda like the idea of acting. I just have no talent or background in it whatsoever.
And then, in my mind's eye, I could see me silhouetted, shoulders slumped, as I walked towards a plane and a fifteen-billion hour journey as I wondered what the hell I was doing only to strip and gurn and hideously over-act to camera, jumping up and down and squealing like a giggly schoolgirl - a fat one in tiny unflattering Speedos - and being rewarded with, okay, handsome pay and a free trip to
'I... I don't know Mum. No, thanks very much. No, it's not for me.'
There was a silence before she snapped back.
'Fweng?' She said, part questioning, mostly authoritative. 'You've got to do it.'
'Erm, Mum, I'm 36.'
'I don't care. It's (*£stupid*). It's a free holiday to (*etc*). You can see Auntie Anon when you're there. She's recovering from cancer.'
* * *
'Aw shit,' I yelled, 'I'm so sorry, can we go again?'
One line I had to remember, five short words, and I missed my cue. I was too busy thinking, 'What am I doing standing semi-naked next to an equally half naked actor called Malcolm?
'We'll go again,' said the guy with the camera.
'Acting. It really is basically prostitution,' I pondered as I twanged self-consciously at the elastic. My fat, the new fat I've put on since losing it over the summer, was spilling over my shorts like angry waves crashing onto battered rocks.
I stared at Malc, my new half-naked friend who treated me like I was some kind of audition-threat. He was giggling as he said his lines. Giggling, I thought, because he was delivering them as he stared at my nipple.
My strange nipple.
My strange, puffy nipp- wait, was that my cue?
'Oh fuck!' I yelled, 'I'm so sorry, I've missed it again.'
'One more time.'
And I said my line. I'm doing it, Mum, I'm doing your fucking audition, semi-naked. Happy?
I tried, but it wasn't great. The line just didn't come out well. For some reason, the whole lights thing, the being filmed; they just weren't getting my A-game.
'Okay guys,' said the cameradude. 'Swap over. Fweng, you're now playing Dean.'
'Uh, but I thought I was supposed to be the fat pink one?'
'You are, but we need to see what you can do.'
I was so fucking far out of my depth. I can't do lines. I couldn't even remember five words.
I grabbed a nearby storyboard from the floor, but it was no good. I could remember the first line, "Hello..." but it was all downhill after that, once the cameraman read his part. I only had room for a sentence.
'Look, seriously guys, this isn't going to happen. I won't be able to memorise this in a few seconds. Best if we don't bother.'
The cameraman looked a little surprised, probably because struggling actors don't turn anything down. And besides, that gig's for them, not some bored office manager whose mother's friendly with a theatrical agent. It just wasn't fair for me to step in and take work from the strutting, bronzed ego-maniacs like the arrogant dickheads waiting in reception.
And when I'd dressed, and thanked the receptionist for sitting there with a straight face and wishing the other guys good luck, I called my Mum. She seemed shocked when I told her I fluffed my line, twice, and devastated when I told her I couldn't play the other role.
And that's when I realised that she really wanted me to do it, because it would have made her proud.
And then the guilt came crashing in. Guilt, and tremendous relief.