Thursday, 17 March 2016

WHO DO THEY THINK I AM?

Got a call this morning from a Casting Agent asking if I'd like to appear on this summer's Big Brother.

I mean, who do they think I am?  I know who I am, and so may you, but the agent had no idea.  Is she scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel, I asked her? Not at all, she flattered.  I saw you on a youtube clip and I thought you looked and sounded interesting.  Yes.  Well. Whatever.

Interesting I may be, but I simply could not share a bedroom and bathroom with a bunch of nobo-wannabees all vying for the cameras' attention.  For a start, I am never seen without full make-up and I reckon it would be tricky to try and do my face every morning in the dark beneath a duvet (that other people may have sat on, farted into or worse!)

So . . . I asked if I could have my own ensuite bedroom and bathroom sans cameras.  Guess what?  They declined!  How very dare they? 

I think they've missed a trick.  I could have set myself up as Big Sister, the visible, caring face of  BB who would organise the food, the cooking, the cleaning and counselling instead of the other contestants having to go crying to a faceless, disembodied voice while they wriggled awkwardly in a swanky chair in the Diary Tomb.

And it's not as if they were offering any money!  'Basic living essentials' whatever that means, like rent.  I should have told them I lived in a suite at The Dorchester - how basic is that?

The prize money is £100,000 but there are no guarantees no matter how one tries to sparkle, entertain, be worldly, womanly and wise.   And Gawd knows who I'd be sharing with. I don't watch Made in Essex or TOWIC and aren't they the celebrities, these days?

Anyhoo, like I've always said: you don't have to go to the party, but it is nice to be invited.

And it was.  I was secretly quite chuffed.  And maybe a bit shtoopid as it would be marvellous publicity for the upcoming 'THE TOYBOY DIARIES' musical currently in pre-production.

But . . . my children would have killed me and like I said earlier, I couldn't bear to share . . . so I'm sorry, dear reader, but you won't be seeing me on a screen near you this summer but you haven't heard the last of me, of that you can be sure ;)





 

Friday, 11 October 2013

PASS THE ASS'S MILK


I'm having a new ensuite bathroom put in.  The builders have been here 5 weeks. Count them. 1-2-3-4-5. That’s weeks not builders.   

Sometimes they appear dressed as The Invisible Man and strangely no work gets done. They are bringing the marble grain by grain from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Dakota and reconstituting it into slabs on site.  At least that’s what they told me but they haven’t started yet as they are drilling for copper beneath the North Sea to forge into pipes for the water supply. 

Luckily I have become quite attached to living on my living-room floor.  And I have another bathroom which we all share though I’ve drawn the line at communal showers.  I now speak fluent Kosovan but they still can’t speak English.  When I asked if the toilet would be wall hung, they thought I wanted to know if Tolek (the plumber) was well hung. 

As I’m now sleeping nearer the front door, when I pass away from old age it won’t be so far for them to carry me out.  And my children will, maybe, one day, have a nice new bathroom which the new owner of my flat - because they’ll sell it before I’ve gone cold - will want to rip out.  
 
Still, mustn't crumble.  Worse things happen at sea.  And the inconvenience is self-inflicted so I shouldn't complain.  I just wish they'd pack up and p*ss off so I can start to clean the thickening layer of dust and access my winter clothes now the weather's turned...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

MONTE CARLO OR BUST!

Back in the day, 1969 to be precise, there was a 'wacky' road race of a movie of this name starring Tony Curtis, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

I've been to Monte Carlo many times - a fake little fantasy of a place where all is pure and pristine - but I've never been to St. Tropez and that's where I'm headed next Wednesday.

'Lucky beach!' I hear you cry but I am, in fact, dreading it.

Sadly, it's a mercy mission to visit my dear old friend, sometime boss and writing mentor, Dominique Lapierre, prolific author of such tomes as Is Paris Burning? The City of Joy and notably...or I'll Dress you in Mourning from which sprang the inspiration for my first novel Blood on the Sand

(For those who may not know, the redoubtable matador Manuel Benitez, El Cordobes, was the subject matter - and I, in turn, the object of one of his well-aimed sword thrusts... for fuller details, download Blood on the Sand on any e-reader!)

So ... how could one dread a trip to St. Tropez? Simply because my dear Dominique, now 82, suffered a serious crack to the head in a fall last year and is no longer the man he used to be. I have been asked to bring along any photos and recall any stories of what we shared to help trigger his memory's return to full health. No problem there. 

I am eager to help his recovery in any way I can and give his lovely wife a break.  I am happy to shop, cook, chatter and cajole, but I understand he sleeps much of the day but is awake much of the night... This could be harder to deal with...if I don't get my seven + hours, Gawd help us all!

There will be many firsts on this trip:  my first time from Stansted (an airport from where I swore I'd never travel!)  My first journey by Ryanair (an airline on which I swore I'd never fly!) and my first time in St. Tropez. 

I'm trusting it all goes smoothly.  Having written this, I feel a little more positive.  How bad could it be?  The sun might be shining... I'm only staying four nights... and there are other friends nearby who may have a yacht...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

RANDOM DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT!!

Not my own story but too funny not to share! WS

"I was due an appointment with the gyneacologist later in the week.  Early one morning, I received a call from the doctor’s office to tell me that I had been rescheduled for that morning at 9:30 am. I had only just packed everyone off to work and school, and it was already around 8:45am. The trip to his office took about 35 minutes, so I didn’t have any time to spare. As most women do, I like to take a little extra effort over hygiene when making such visits, but this time I wasn’t going to be able to make the full effort.

So, I rushed upstairs, threw off my pajamas, wet the washcloth that was sitting next to the sink, and gave myself a quick wash in that area to make sure I was at least presentable. I threw the washcloth in the clothes basket, donned some clothes, hopped in the car and raced to my appointment.


 I was in the waiting room for only a few minutes when I was called in. Knowing the procedure, as I’m sure you do, I hopped up on the table, looked over at the other side of the room and pretended that I was in Paris or some other place a million miles away.

 I was a little surprised when the doctor said, “My, we have made an extra effort this morning, haven’t we?” I didn’t respond.

After the appointment, I heaved a sigh of relief and went home. The rest of the day was normal -shopping, cleaning, cooking. After school when my 6-year old daughter was playing, she called out from the bathroom, “Mommy, where’s my washcloth?”

I told her to get another one from the cupboard.

She replied, “No, I need the one that was here by the sink, it had all my glitter and sparkles saved inside it.”

Never going back to that doctor again……….. ever."

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A KNIGHT AT THE OPERA...

So having refused him lunch on Sunday, he emailed me to have lunch on Monday.  At Scott's! This is one of the poshest restaurants in Mayfair, a place to where I aspire to be invited.  I replied in the affirmative, although it wasn't, if I'm honest, massively convenient.  It meant I would have to wash my hair again and possibly get a re-varnish... Still, small price to pay.

When I woke up Monday morning, it occurred to me I didn't know his surname.  No way was I going to get all putzed up and go into town to enter a restaurant to meet a man called Carlos without knowing in whose name the table had been booked. 

"Good afternoon, Madam."
"Good afternoon.  I'm meeting... er ... Carlos?"

They'd think I was a hooker.

So I emailed and asked what name the table was in and actually, could he kindly call me to confirm the lunch date.  Nada.  I waited until noon, getting ever more agitated, then emailed again to say:

"I'm sorry but I have a radio broadcast to do (true) so might be a little late.  Also, I'm not comfortable meeting a complete stranger without a telephone conversation first. Please call me."

Zilch.

I binned the whole idea and went about my business.  Luckily, I had not washed my hair!

Later in the day, I get an email: "Sorry.  I got held up in a meeting.  I leave for NY tomorrow but will be back in May.  I'll contact you."

I fell about laughing.  I should live so long, but I won't be holding my breath!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

I take my 14 year old granddaughter, Tatiana, to the opera: L’elisir d’amore at Covent Garden – a rare treat. 

Just before the lights go down, I notice a good-looking older man hovering very close to where we’re sitting staring at us both.  He suddenly speaks, in a foreign accent: ‘Mother & daughter?’  Tatiana pipes up: ‘She’s my grandma’.   

The man puts his fingers to his lips and blows them in my direction. 
 
‘You don’t have a husband if you look so good!’ he says.  I laugh and say: ‘No I don’t!’
 
He winks at me, having established my marital status.  Tatiana gives me a nudge and says: ‘You just can’t help it, can you?’ like I’ve done something wrong!  He takes his seat, the lights go down, and the performance begins. 

During the interval, Tats & I go walkabouts.  Her maths teacher is somewhere in the audience but we don’t find her – she said she wasn't bothered, but I'm sure she would have like to show herself off in other than her school uniform.  Crossing the bar on the way back to our seats, The Foreigner is standing alone drinking a glass of pink champagne.   Stylish!

He greets me warmly, asks Tats her name then asks mine. 

‘I will call you Wendy, not Grandma...’ he whispers in my eye.  ‘I am Carlos.’ 

We chat a little.  He’s from Mexico, travels 6 months of the year, is probably lonely with a wife in Acapulco or wherever.  Tatiana’s looking bored so we walk off but bump into him again just before the 2nd act.  He quickly asks for my phone number.   

I say: ‘I’ll give it to you later’.  

At the end of the opera, he has to pass where we’re sitting to leave. I give a business card to Tats to hand to him (I never gave him my number, m’lud).  He takes both my hands in his and says: ‘Have lunch with me tomorrow at 2.’  I say: ‘I can’t tomorrow’.  He looks disappointed, but takes the card and leaves without saying goodbye to Tatiana which I find rude.  Men, honestly!! 
 
If he calls, should I see him? What would you do?

Monday, 15 October 2012

KOLKATA CONTINUED...

I'm better at keeping promises to other people than to myself and although much has happened this past year, I was reminded recently to finish posting my blog on Kolkata before I embark on another trip to India. 

My last blog left you with some of the ladies dabbing tears from their eyes.  Here's what happened next:

Local film crews jostle for position to document our arrival. Dominique lectures anyone who’ll listen to encourage the Indian Government and wealthy nationals to help their own which they do not seem to do. Through the crowd, we spot Brother Gaston Dayanand, a Swiss turned Holy Man who has lived and worked amongst the poorest of Kolkata’s poor these past forty years. He leads our procession to an open-sided tent where we are seated on a dais like a royal entourage. The whole community, decked out in their finery, sit cross-legged on the ground staring up at us.

The sweet-faced children then perform a 3-hour song, dance and acrobatic show. They all look clean and healthy yet some have shaven heads, presumably to ward off lice. Their parents were all lepers, unable to care for themselves let alone their offspring: infant girls abandoned for simply being female; toddlers left alone when their young mothers died, reduced to scavenging on scrap heaps with the rats; eight-year olds without a rag to clothe themselves forced into prostitution for a few grains of rice.

All those who entertain us have been saved from certain death by Brother Gaston and the selfless, noble, unflinching dedication of Dominique Lapierre, his wife and their fellow humanitarians.

Bouquets and gifts are presented; speeches are made; cakes are cut; photos are taken; the website goes live.  Bottled water is handed out much to our relief.   From the four corners of the globe, we thirty Western strangers bond through the sheer intensity of this shared experience.

The next day, we set off for Barrackpore to visit a home called Udayan: The Resurrection. This inspirational centre was founded in 1970 by an ex-gentleman’s outfitter from Gloucester, Rev. James Stevens O.B.E.  He went out to India in 1968, borrowed a truck from Mother Teresa and began gathering up children from the slums.  He has since created a paradise on earth, financially supported by Dominique Lapierre since 1981, where 300 mentally and physically-challenged children aged 4 to 18, all rescued from leper colonies, live, learn and learn to live.

Costly antiobiotics, physical therapy and high protein diets restore their health. They are educated in all academic subjects, as well as yoga, music, arts and crafts and sports. They learn the skills to earn a living and will go on to become tailors, carpenters, welders, mechanics, electricians, leather workers. When they leave the centre, Udayan will help them buy materials to open their own shops.

Wherever possible, they still see their parents who reap comfort and joy from seeing their now-healthy children growing up to fulfil the dreams they never dared to even dream.

As the week progresses, the schools and health centres become bigger and better:  The Dominique Lapierre School of Excellence for Children with Special Need, The Dominique Lapierre Centre of Excellence for the Disabled.  We watch a football match played by two teams of polio sufferers, little boys with callipers on their legs and some on crutches, including one who ‘runs’ across the field on his hands and bottom. 

As the patients grow up, they too become care givers, physiotherapists, manufacturers of aids and appliances, receivers and providers of physical and mental therapy for the next influx of rescued children. 

We sail up the Ganges Delta on a hospital ship to visit the Sundarbans, a vast area of mangrove forest mudflats, straddling the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh.  Designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, 4.4 million people inhabit 54 of the hundreds of small islands which do not feature on any map.

Xander van Meerwijk, a Dutch philanthropist and heroic friend of the Lapierres, has donated, amongst much else, the funds to build a floating ambulance which provides a whole range of equipment including an on-board lab and X-ray machine capable of detecting tuberculosis in its early stages. This ship is a world first which has already saved thousands of lives.

Xander tells me a wonderful story about the little black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

“The designer Givenchy gave it to me to auction at Christie’s, the proceeds to go to my good causes,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, “The price was going up and up to ten times over the $100,000 reserve.  Hubert (de Givenchy) suddenly objected to the nationality of the highest bidder -  a wealthy Russian - and slammed in a final bid just before the hammer went down.  He effectively bought his own dress back but he still donated the money: close to $1,000,000 for that famous little piece of cloth!” *

The Sundarban region, as well as harbouring snakes and crocodiles, is famous for the Royal Bengal tiger, the only animal that drinks seawater. This fearsome creature is a merciless man-eater with a penchant for the cadavers that float along the Ganges, bodies only partially cremated for the simple reason that their families couldn’t afford enough wood for a decent funeral pyre.

Local farmers wear masks on the backs of their heads because the tigers supposedly won’t attack if you’re looking at them, but this is poor protection when you take into account the annual number of deaths.

The remote islanders are in dire need of all types of medical assistance.  Cataract removal, cervical screening, malaria control, leprosy treatment – you name it, they need help for it.

One young woman I spoke to explained she was trying to raise enough money to build a house (one room mud hut) and start a stationery business to provide pens and paper for the islands’ schoolchildren.

“How much would that cost?” I enquire. “About $300. . .” she replies.  The price of a good lunch.

From having been afraid to touch anyone or eat anything, we have learned to tuck into the local produce laid out for us and clutch the outstretched hands that greet us.  We hug the smiling women and pat the straight-faced babies. We stroke the children’s silky hair then surreptitiously pass round anti-bacterial hand wipes in our inbuilt Western paranoia.

On our final day, we visit the slum immortalised in Dominique Lapierre’s best-selling book The City of Joy where his hero, a rickshaw puller/human horse died of TB aged 32.  On an area the size of three football pitches, thousands of people live, love, give birth and die alongside open sewers, stinking latrines and polluted wells.

One enduring memory however is of a photograph of a filthy, crippled baby in a crib covered with flies followed by another of that same child aged 18, upright and well, graduating from University. Without the charity, the 2nd photo would not have existed.

Dominique Lapierre is one of life’s heroes instrumental in opening 102 schools, digging 650 wells, bringing literacy to the women of 3000 villages, launching 4 hospital ships and distributing millions to those in need.

“When I see a wealthy Indian driving a brand new Bentley or Ferrari through the streets of Mumbai” he muses, “I see enough money to lift 50,000 tuberculosis-ridden children off the streets, to cure them and to educate them.”

In hard economic times such as these, there is a terrible deficit in funds. Due to the recession, benefactors are knocking noughts off the end of their previous donations.  Some of the schools and centres may have to close. 

On returning home, I scoop the last spoonful from a jar of coffee then have a terrible dilemma about throwing the empty jar away.  What use the Kolkatans could make of it: as a storage container, a water vessel, a grain pounder, a rolling pin.

I’ve heard it said that India changes you. 

I never believed it. 

I do now.

Tragically, dear Dominique sustained a bad fall in May and is still recovering in hospital in Toulon. We all wish him a speedy recovery to full health.