Authors: Maeve Haran
Twenty years ago I wrote
Having It All
, the story of Liz Ward trying to balance a high-flying career in television with bringing up two small children and facing some
difficult obstacles along the way. My novel caused an enormous stir not just in the UK, but around the world. Everyone seemed ready to yell at each other across TV studios, on radio stations and in
countless newspaper headlines about whether you can or cannot Have It All.
It will be fascinating to see if things have changed for this generation of readers, or whether it’s still assumed that – in spite of their careers – women are responsible for
every dentist’s appointment, nativity costume and day off for chicken pox.
I tried to make
Having It All
funny, realistic and moving and I do hope the current generation enjoy – and argue over it – as much as the last.
Liz Ward, high-flying executive and creative powerhouse of Metro Television, woke to the unexpected sensation of a hand slipping inside the top of her silk pyjamas and
caressing her left breast.
For ten seconds she kept her eyes closed, abandoning herself to the pleasurable feelings of arousal. As the other hand stole into her pyjama bottoms she arched her back in response, turned her
head to one side and caught sight of the clock-radio.
‘My God! It’s ten past eight!’ she yelped, pushing David’s hands unceremoniously away, and jumping out of bed. ‘I’ve got a nine-fifteen meeting with
She flung her pyjamas on the floor and bolted for the bathroom. On the landing she stopped dead and listened. Silence. Always a bad sign. What the hell were Jamie and Daisy up to?
Panicking mildly she pushed open the door of Daisy’s bedroom. Jamie was sitting in Daisy’s cot next to her, wearing his new Batman outfit, back to front, attempting to tie his
Batcape around his protesting baby sister. Scattered on the floor were every pair of tights from Daisy’s sock drawer.
Jamie looked up guiltily. ‘We needed them. She’s got to have tights if she’s going to be Robin. Don’t you, Daisy?’
‘Me Robin,’ agreed Daisy.
Liz repressed the desire to shout at him that it was eight-fifteen and he was going to be late for school, remembering it was her fault for getting up to no good with David. Instead she kissed
him guiltily and sprinted back into the bedroom, grabbing her suit from the wardrobe and praying it wasn’t covered in Weetabix from Daisy’s sticky fingers. Women at Metro TV, from the
vampish Head of Entertainment down to the lady who cleaned the loos, looked like refugees from the cover of
and Liz was finding it tough going keeping up.
David had retreated under the duvet, his pride wounded. Mercilessly she stripped it off and handed him Jamie’s school tracksuit. ‘Come on, Daddy, you do Jamie. I’ll change
Daisy in the bathroom.’
She glanced at her watch again. Eight-twenty-five. Oh my God. The joys of working motherhood.
By the time she got downstairs, Daisy under one arm and the report she was supposed to have read in bed last night under the other, David was already immersed in the
newspapers. As usual he let the chaos of the breakfast table lap around him, getting his own toast but never offering to get anyone else’s. How could Donne ever have said no man is an island?
At breakfast all men are islands, separate and oblivious in a sea of female activity.
Still sulking at her rebuff, he was even quieter than usual this morning, his nose deep in the
. Suddenly he steered the paper through the obstacle race of mashed banana,
Coco Pops, and upended trainer cups towards her.
‘Look at this. There’s a piece about Metro. Conrad says he’s about to appoint a Programme Controller at last.’ Raising his voice to drown out the chaos of Daisy’s
shouts, Jamie’s insistent demands to look at him as he climbed precariously up on his chair, and the nanny’s radio tuned to New Kids on the Block, David shouted across to her,
‘Why don’t you pitch for the job?’
‘Me?’ Liz wished her reply sounded less like a yelp of panic. She’d only joined Metro Television as Head of Features a few weeks ago when they’d been awarded one of the
commercial television franchises for London and she was looking forward to the three months before they actually went on air to settle quietly in and get her ideas ready for the launch.
‘Yes. You. Elizabeth Ward. Talented producer. Deviser of a whole new style of programme making. Mother of two.’ David warmed to his theme. ‘A woman controller would be a
brilliant publicity coup for Metro. None of the other TV companies has a woman in charge.’ Fired with enthusiasm he jumped up and came towards her. ‘The nineties is the decade of women,
for Christ’s sake! And you’re the classic nineties woman. A glittering career
kids! You’d be perfect!’
No wonder he made such a good newspaper editor, Liz thought affectionately. Talking people into doing things they didn’t want to was his great strength. But he didn’t know Conrad
Marks, Metro’s tough American MD. Conrad thought women were only good for one thing. He had honed his chauvinism to a fine art back home where men were men and women went shopping. He would
never hand over power to a woman.
‘You don’t know Conrad like I know Conrad.’
She winced, remembering the opening ceremony of Metro’s stylish new offices the day before yesterday. Somehow or other Conrad had persuaded the Duchess of York to do the honours. Fergie
had turned up in one of her fashion disasters, a low-cut peasant number which should have stayed on the upper reaches of Mont Blanc where it belonged. Conrad had spent most of the ceremony peering
down her cleavage and she was barely out of earshot when he’d whispered loudly to his deputy: ‘Did you see the tits on the Duchess? Lucky royal brats!’
Conrad would never appoint a woman to run Metro.
‘But I’m an ideas person, not a tough exec.’ Liz tried to gulp her coffee and stop Jamie wiping his nose on his school uniform. ‘I don’t have the killer
‘You don’t push hard enough, that’s all.’ Liz could hear the exasperation in his voice. He was so different from her. So sure of himself. Thirty-five and already editor
, Logan Greene’s blue-eyed boy, heir apparent to the whole Greene empire. Occasionally, judging David by his boyish good looks, people underestimated him. Invariably
they regretted it.
But then David had always known what he wanted. To get on. To get out of Yorkshire and away from his parents’ council house. To succeed. And he had. Even beyond his wildest dreams. And he
couldn’t understand her reluctance to do the same.
Looking at his watch he stood up. ‘It’s the caring sharing nineties remember. Killer instincts are out. We’re all supposed to respect the feminine now. Intuition.
‘Bullshit. Try telling Conrad that.’
He leaned over and kissed her teasingly. ‘No.
try telling him.’
Liz wiped the cereal out of Daisy’s hair and, fending off the sticky hands that lunged for her suit, kissed the tender nape of her neck. Reluctantly she handed her over to Susie, the
nanny, and tried to persuade Jamie to let go of her leg so that she could check her briefcase. As usual he wailed and clung like a limpet.
On the way out she glanced at herself briefly in the hall mirror. She wasn’t too bad for thirty-six. She could do with losing a bit of weight, but at least it meant she didn’t have
any lines. Thank God she’d had a decent haircut last week which dragged her if not exactly into the nineties, then at least out of the seventies. And the smoky jade eyeshadow the hairdresser
had persuaded her to try gave her eyes a sensual oriental look she was quite taken with. People said brunettes kept their looks longer. Well, brunettes said brunettes kept their looks longer
Looking at her watch, Liz felt a brief but familiar blast of panic: she was going to be late for the meeting with Conrad, the Hoover needed servicing and she’d just remembered that Susie
wanted the car today. What had David called her? The classic nineties woman? Ha bloody ha.
There were, as usual, only two women at the weekly ideas meeting: Lizand Claudia Jones, Metro’s Head of Entertainment. Having raced across London and run up three flights
of stairs when she found the lift was full, Liz arrived out of breath and tense. Fortunately Andrew Stone, Metro’s Head of News, was late as well so she managed to slip in and sit down
without looking too obvious.
It meant doing without the coffee she would have killed for, but at least Claudia couldn’t cast one of her usual withering glances at the clock. Chic, single and childless, Claudia turned
Putting the Job First into a religion.
Glancing across the vast boardroom table at Claudia, Liz couldn’t decide what she disliked about her most: the way she always looked as though she’d stepped out of Harvey
Nichols’s window, her blatant use of being female to get what she wanted or her complete lack of talent.
Claudia was the kind of person who kidnapped other people’s ideas and took the credit for them. She loved being a woman in a man’s world and wanted as few others as possible to be
allowed to join the club. And Liz had a shrewd idea that included her.
There was also a rumour going round Metro that Claudia had the ear of Conrad Marks. And from time to time, so the gossips said, the rest of his body too.
‘Nice suit,’ Claudia congratulated her. Liz looked at her in surprise. Friendliness wasn’t Claudia’s style. ‘Armani, isn’t it?’
Every eye in the room looked Liz up and down with interest.
Claudia smiled unexpectedly. ‘Pity about the back.’
Liz looked down horrified. Over the back of one shoulder, like some lurid post-punk jewellery, was half the contents of Daisy’s breakfast.
In the Ladies there was nothing to wipe it off with. Toilet paper would disintegrate and cover the black suit with bits of tissue, and the roller towel was too short to reach. With a sudden
inspiration she delved into her wallet and retrieved her American Express Card. That would do nicely.
By the time Liz got back into the boardroom Conrad had arrived. She slipped into her seat hoping he wouldn’t notice. Some hope.
‘I was just saying, Liz’– he didn’t even bother to look in her direction – ‘that no doubt you’re all wondering who’s on my shortlist for Programme
Controller. There are two candidates, both internal. I assume you’d like to know who they are?’ He looked round the room savouring the anxiety on their faces. ‘The first is Andrew
Stone.’ There was a buzz of muted approval at the mention of the popular though disorganized Head of News. ‘And the other is’ – he grinned wolfishly, playing with them,
enjoying the tension in the room – ‘Metro’s Head of Entertainment, Claudia Jones.’
Liz felt like a bucket of freezing water had been thrown over her, but it left her mind cool and sharp as a razor. If Claudia got the job that would be the end of Liz. She couldn’t let it
happen. She’d have to make a rival bid.