I am ella buy me, p.1
I Am Ella, Buy Me, page 1
Thank you for purchasing ‘Ella’, hope you enjoy it. There is an opportunity to write a review at the end of the book, short extracts from my other novels and a link to buy them on Amazon.
Thanks again. Joan
‘This book is like real life; funny, sad and wise and true.’
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Paul Burke, author.
‘Crackling dialogue dances off the page.’
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Book Addict UK
‘Fans of Mad Men will be enthralled.’
* * * * *
‘Very, very funny.’
‘Joan Ellis is an extremely witty, talented writer.’
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‘Smart and incredibly funny.’
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‘I loved Ella.’
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‘Joan Ellis writes with sparkling wit and authority.’
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Jeanne Mary Willis, author
‘I lost a day because of this book. I had to finish it.’
* * * * *
‘Well-written, fun read.’
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Belinda, Girls Love To Read
‘I am Ella. Buy me.’ is one of the sharpest and wittiest books I have read. Ella is a brilliant lead character.’
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‘I absolutely LOVED Ella David. She made me laugh endlessly. There was a smart wit about her. Ella was the sort of woman that I’d love to sit across from in an office. I’d be endlessly entertained! The characters were superbly developed.’
‘The writing style was humorous, serious and heart-breaking. With feelings and a good moral compass Ella could be a role model for women.’
‘It’s fast-paced and very believable especially if you are old enough to have lived in the 80s when sexism and a lack of morals in the work place were tolerated.’
Girls Love To Read
‘One of the things I liked most was the reminder it gave that, however much we may still be struggling to achieve equality in the workplace, there has been a lot of progress
since the yuppie days of Thatcher's Britain.'
Book Addict UK
I am Ella. Buy me.
Copyright 2012 Joan Ellis
The moral right of Joan Ellis to be identified
as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.
First published in 2014 by Joan Ellis Publications Isle of Wight,
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher.
Cover design : Chee Lau
Printed in Great Britain by imprintDigital.com
For my darling Mum.
With thanks to:
Adland in the 80’s: Maison Bertaux
and Patisserie Valerie for the best croissants in town; advertising legends Trevor Beattie, Paul Burke and Jeanne Willis for always being there; Wight Writers for sorting the wrongs; Doug for everything else.
100 Dean Street, W.1. Telephone: 01 734 1000
20 November 1982
My name is Peter Richards, Creative Director par excellence of CBA Advertising. Thank you so much for buying this book. With your help I am Ella. Buy me will hopefully be a success and Joan Ellis will embark on a career as an author instead of continuing to masquerade as my copywriter in my advertising agency. With her gone, I can hire a new little hottie.
Can you believe I caught Joan typing up this manuscript on company time? I mean, why should I pay a girl who won’t sit on my lap and would rather write books than ads?
I even discovered my secretary reading this book
when she should’ve been sorting my holiday in Bermuda. She tells me it is a novel for anyone who has ever had a bad day at the hands of a bad boss or a bad boyfriend. I have no idea what she’s talking about. Rumour has it the Creative Director character is based on me, but he’s a sexist pig so obviously not yours truly. Oink! Oink!!! Seriously, I’ve got my lawyers on it and will sue Joan’s arse to hell if needs be.
Clearly Joan is Ella with her ‘small boobs and fat thighs’. What a giveaway!!!! And I discovered the complete manuscript on the company photocopier. No wonder it’s always out of toner.
Before joining me at CBA, Joan worked in some of
London’s top advertising agencies as an award-winning copywriter. She penned what she likes to refer to as a ‘back-page funny’ for a glossy magazine. She also ran her own comedy club, writing and performing sketch shows, even appearing on the same bill as Jo Brand. Just the once, I imagine. Personally, I’ve yet to see her smile. She doesn’t get my jokes unlike my naughty little secretary who finds me utterly hilarious. The minx.
It might also be worth mentioning that my wife has
run off with her aerobic-instructor leaving me
Should any young lady reading this want to help me clear my chakras I would love to meet for a drink. What’s the company plastic for if not to spread a little joy?
In the meantime, I sincerely hope you enjoy the book. Apparently, there’s plenty more where this came from. I feel a duvet day coming on!
Know your product
I am a ginger tom. I am a boy racer. I am a housewife. I am a success. I am a pain in the arse.
And that’s just the day job. By night, I am a lush. I am single. I am a failure. I am still a pain in the arse.
I am a copywriter creating advertisements for everything from abandoned cats to luxury cars. To do this I get inside people’s (or cats’) heads and discover what makes them tick.
Welcome to my world. Welcome to Adland where creative odd-balls like me preen and party, snip and snipe. It’s the only place to reward our egos, our hang-ups and our fornicating, setting us to work in ivory towers, encrusted with diamonds and surrounded by a moat of champagne.
My office is on the third floor of CBA, one of London’s top advertising agencies in the heart of oh-so-sordid Soho where red telephone booths are awash with pee and calling cards promising French lessons from pneumatic blondes. But, when I glimpse these girls leaning in doorways, their skimpy tops reveal breasts as flat as fried eggs. They are paid to satisfy their clients’ needs by fulfilling fantasies and pretending to be someone they’re not, just like I do. Luckily, they don’t have to pander to my boss, ageing lothario, Peter Richards. Or at least I hope they don’t. No amount of money is worth that.
Today, I am Marmalade, a ginger tom abandoned outside Kitty Rescue, the home where he now lives with his moggie mates. He ‘writes’ letters to cat-lovers asking them to finance his board and lodging. By a cruel irony some of the money he raised paid for him to be neutered. I imagine him, lying on his side, one back leg pointing skywards, his head where his balls should be, trying to figure out where they went.
To ensure the letter hits the right emotional chord, I write the missive with my mum in mind. As she is not allowed pets in her rented accommodation, Marmalade and his crew fill the space in her heart,
‘love and meows’ sign-off, two kisses and a paw-print.
Now after three re-writes, I am ready to show his latest letter to Peter for approval. By a cruel twist of fate, he is both the Creative Director and my Art-Director, which means we are obliged to spend unnatural amounts of time together thinking up ideas. It’s like a marriage without the sex, so just like a marriage. Peter’s got it sussed. I do the work and he takes the credit. However, it is unlikely we’ll be fighting on the winner’s podium for the much-prized Golden Crayon Award with this one.
‘Dear Mrs. Miggins,
Can you imagine how desperate I felt before Kitty Rescue found me?
I was ...’
‘Ella, let me just stop you there. It sounds rather lame to me. Would Marmalade really use a word like ‘desperate’?’ Peter asks, his voice buzzing around the room like a bluebottle trapped in a jar.
We’ve suspended disbelief this far, I think.
‘Any thoughts?’ he prompts waving his soft, expensively-manicured hand at me.
‘How about ‘hopeless’?’ I suggest feeling the same emotion.
‘Old women think of cats as toddlers in furry suits ergo Marmalade must talk like one,’ he says slowly as if explaining to a toddler in a furry suit.
It’s not easy working out what makes a feline eunuch tick. It’s a bit like being an actress, which is what I wanted to be until my teacher told me I would never make it without family connections or family money to see me through the lean times. Not only was my dream of appearing on the silver-screen in tatters but the cloud’s silver-lining hung in rags too.
The following day, Mum left Dad and we went to live with Grand-dad in his Victorian hovel, taking with us just two suitcases and a birdcage. One case contained our clothes, including Mum’s shift dresses, and my rather alarming, shocking-pink poncho that made me look like an anaemic bat. The other was crammed with Mum’s beloved collection of Nat King Cole singles. In the large steel cage sat my irascible parrot, Beauty Column- Sixpence. (‘Beauty’ because she was, ‘Column’ because the most exciting part of my week was sitting, importantly on Dad’s lap, deciding which columns to put the crosses in on his football pools coupon, and ‘Sixpence’ because that was my pocket-money.) Grand-dad’s house was very different to ours. It was an old, cold three-storey terrace, heated, inadequately, by a single bar electric fire. To claim the house was ever ‘heated’ would be a lie. Even ‘taking the chill off’ would have been pushing it. The plumbing amounted to a temperamental cold tap in the kitchen, one minute gushing out rusty red water, the next not parting with a single drop. The outside lavatory provided shiny toilet paper stiff enough to double as tracing paper on geography homework nights. And my old plastic baby bath, which my beloved Mum had kept for sentimental reasons, was given a new lease of life as I washed in it as best I could every night. What had been the perfect fit when I was just eight pounds was somewhat wide of the mark when I weighed in at eight stone. Mum would set the bath on a towel covering the living room table and fill it with boiling water from the kettle and a pan of freezing water from the tap. Then she would leave the room as I washed with a flannel and a bar of Lifebuoy soap while watching Bruce Forsyth on our rented television set. None of my friends believed me when I grandly announced I had a TV in my bathroom.
After having my hopes of becoming an actress dashed, I marched into the careers section of my local library where I threw a fittingly dramatic tantrum, on the off-chance a casting agent or film producer was loitering. It must have been their day off because no-one offered me the lead role in their latest epic. Forced to flick, desultory, through the drawer of job index cards, I discarded the one titled ‘Acting’ and plucked out the one next to it marked, ‘Advertising’. My future was decided on the turn of a card and I became the rarest of beasts in Adland in the early 1980’s, a woman.
Cosmopolitan magazine rated being a copywriter amongst the top ten best careers for girls. If it meant I got to live the life portrayed within its pages that was good enough for me. The only thing I knew for sure about the industry was it paid well. Not only would I be able to afford super-soft loo roll, the sort Golden Labrador puppies favour but I would earn enough money to buy Mum a music centre so she could actually listen to Nat King Cole instead of just sliding the vinyl from its cover, examining the ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides and imagining him serenading her.
I made both our dreams come true with my first wage packet. Seeing her weary, worried face transform into a smile as Nat worked his magic was worth every penny I earned flogging floor cleaner.
‘Ella?’ Peter prompts.
I owe Mum everything. She cared for me when we had nothing. And she didn’t just read to me. She taught me to write. Every Friday, we would be set a composition as our homework. Linking words together to form a story was an anathema to me. I couldn’t even spell. Confronted with a sobbing eight-year-old, Mum would often write the essay for me and I would copy it out. One week, she finished her tale with the line, ‘And all that was left was a burnt offering.’
‘Burnt offering?’ I asked, appalled. ‘I can’t say that.’
A vision of Joan of Arc being incinerated at the stake sprung to mind. As the only Church of England pupil in a Catholic school, I couldn’t say a word out of place.
‘It’s a great ending, write it down,’ Mum urged.
As I handed in Mum’s story, I hoped to spontaneously combust and save the nuns the job. By a miracle, I got ten out of ten. Or rather Mum did. The bar having been raised, she had to beat her best efforts each time. After a few weeks of her writing it and me copying, I got the hang of it. In feeding me the words, she taught me to write. I wish she was here now. She would know what Marmalade would say. I need to crack the cat’s vocabulary in the next five minutes (and let’s face it, the chances are slimmer than the Nimble girl’s waist) or I won’t make it to the wine bar to meet the gorgeous Alan Ferguson, and Marmalade won’t be the only desperate one. Alan is one of London’s most sought after Art-Directors. Having recently won his third Golden Crayon, he is now using it to write his own pay cheque and rewrite the terms of his contract with CBA. Officially allowed to use the pub as his office, he only pops by the agency to present Peter with yet another award-winning idea and challenge the boys in the studio to a game of table-football.
‘Perhaps Marmalade feels ‘sad,’ I suggest encouraging Peter to channel an emotion other than self-love.
‘Sad?’ roars Peter. ‘He’s been kicked in the balls.’
‘But he hasn’t got any,’ I say.
‘The cat has been betrayed by the one person he thought loved him. All his home comforts have gone. He has lost everything. ‘Sad’ doesn’t begin to cover it.’
Here we go again, Peter’s recent marriage break-up. When his wife left him (and who could blame her) she purloined a couple of essentials, namely the penthouse and the pool-boy, to tide her over until a full and final settlement could be thrashed out between their respective lawyers. We all know the story. Peter never misses an opportunity to bore anyone sycophantic enough to listen. He blames his wife for the split, never mentioning his numerous dalliances with a succession of PAs - all of whom he recruited less on their shorthand skills and more on their resemblance to porn stars.
‘How about ‘alone’?’ I ask picturing him rattling around his Highgate pad with just his executive ball-clicker for company.
‘Ella, I don’t think you’re getting this. We need something more Marmalade, more honest,’ he pontificates.
I just want to have a big glass of wine and forget all about the wretched cat. ‘I’ve got it, ‘sad’,’ he declares as if he has secured peace in the Middle East.
‘But I suggested that and you...’ I protest.
Then I remember Peter’s ability to hire and fire in the same sentence and shut-up. I need the money to pay Mum’s rent an
‘We’ll finish this later. Time for a drinkie-poo,’ Peter says, pulling on his fashionably over-sized, over-priced overcoat.
The silk lining is hot pink to match his cashmere scarf. One of the art- directors tried to strangle him with it earlier this week. Now I know why. I can’t think of anything I’d less like to do than have a drinkie-poo with this piece of doggie-do but we’re in a recession, best not to argue.
‘Okay, Peter, let’s have a quick one,’ I sigh.
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