Monday, 28 June 2010

The past is a foreign country. . . .

While living in New York I used to go to a yoga class every week. One day a girl came in and lay down on the mat opposite. I knew her but I hadn't seen her for about 14 years, we were at college together. I was amazed, what are the chances of that? So afterwards I said hello. But the thing is, I didn't actually know her very well. Well. . . . .not at all really, she was in jewellery and I was in ceramics. But I couldn't let such an extraordinary coincidence go unnoticed, could I? However, there was really nowhere to go with it. After a brief exchange about what we were doing there, we ran out of steam. We weren't friends before, there was really no reason why we should be now. And so we parted company. But I couldn't help feeling there should have been some earth shattering, universe clashing meaning to this random meeting so many miles and years away from where we'd originally met. But there wasn't. It was just a thing. One of those things. A coincidence. A blast from the past that had no place in the present.

In the last couple of weeks my past seems to have become very much part of my present. It started when I went to the secret cinema. We gathered at Canary Warf in the drizzling rain, many dressed in elaborate costumes, all sporting our goggles, and were taken off to an unknown destination: an exotic bazaar where we ate noodles and drank beer. The not-so-secret film was Blade Runner, which I hadn't seen since it's original release. While performers abseiled from the ceiling my mind was filled with 1980s me: big hair, lip gloss and Harrison Ford fantasies. Then I went to a summer party deep down in the country, thrown by a friend I hadn't seen for 15 years. I don't really do that whole reunited thing but I have to say it really was a lovely evening, resulting in the most surprising proposal of the far....Then I was invited to a Jamiroquai gig by a chap I've know since I was 15. I have seen him in the interim years but not much recently. Once there 2 other guys I hadn't seen for 20 years popped up. A few days later I had dinner with a friend I'd know when I lived in LA. She still lives there and as her family has grown doesn't get to visit very often. We met at the Paramount on the 33rd floor of Centre Point which truly has one of the most incredible views: 360 degrees of illuminated, night time London, and of course there was the return to Glastonbury after a 20 year hiatus. It really has been a very odd time, quite literally like seeing my life flash before me.

Top tip: Alabama 3's Revolver Soul for summer listening

I woke up this morning.....

I don't feel like dancing.........much these days, but then Kylie skipped out to join Scissor Sisters and the crowd went wild...... The last time I went to Glastonbury I got pregnant. Not on the actual site, you understand, but shortly after. I was wooed back to the father of the son by a backstage pass, the rest is history. The last 20 years have seen many changes to the hallowed hills of Avalon, not least of all the British public's attitude to live, music-based events in a field. Every summer the nation seems gripped by festival fever, Glasto tents go on sale in Tesco along with the BBQs and briquettes; no self-respecting celebrity, man or woman, misses out on the opportunity of being papped in a straw cowboy hat and denim cut-offs, larking about with Keith Allan, come rain or shine. It used to be Straights and Freaks, Them and Us. Now it's Them going to Glastonbury, forking out £180 a pop to spend three days in a corner of England that will forever rock. And it doesn't stop there: there are luxury Tipis and home-from-home Yurts, butler service, champagne bars and an impregnable hospitality area packed with would-be-wannabe Rock Gods, actors, models and Pixie Geldof.

It wasn't always like that. I can remember as a child visiting my grandmother, who lived in Glastonbury, and the locals were far from pleased. Signs were stuck in pubs and shops, 'no dogs, no hippies'. But the long haired boys with beards and skinny girls with kohl rimmed eyes looked magical to my childish eyes, I loved them. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. And so I went to my first festival in 1979, hidden beneath a blanket on the back seat of an old Ford. We ate bean burgers, smoked dope all day and watched The Incredible Alex Harvey Band. I didn't think life could get much better. And then my boyfriend started working with the guys who built the Pyramid Stage and put up the sound system. He became one of the noise boys and we left the world of beer tents and the long-drop loo, and moved into the comfort and joy of the back stage bar and more importantly, the porta-loo.....happy daze indeed.

But the times they were a changing. I've never been much of a camper, in fact I actively dislike it. As the years rolled by I began to step away from the bar and really, without the aid of hard liquor and class As, me and the two-man ridge were going to have to part company. Besides, it was getting too big, the crowd had swelled to 65,000, people were getting mugged, the vibe had changed. And so, I hung up my cowboy hat and called time on Glastonbury. And although I have visited smaller festivals in recent years I have never had the urge to go to Glasto, in fact the phrase 'you couldn't pay me' is the one I usually employ come June. It seemed to have turned into the number-one-white-middle-class-lets-go-mad-in-the-country summer special, consumed by consumerism. I was out.

And then my mate Mickey said: "Saturday, it's work, you and me, like the old days....I can get you a pass...." So there I was, cheek by jowl with knotty-haired boys with public school accents wearing tales (it's a festival thing....) and girls with glittery faces, trying to buy a pint in a crowded marquee called The Cornish Pub. Number 1: it's huge, awesomely, relentlessly huge, it rolls out across the fields like some massive first-world, refugee camp. You need maps and a book to know where you are and what you're doing. In the sun it was hot, and there is very little shade. In the rain......absolutely not. And everywhere there are people. Moving people. Many with a buggy in tow. One couple had between them a double and a single buggy containing three small children. Why? But it has to be said, they were all smiling. Leaving my cynisism at the gate I began to explore the site and the amazing thing is that 150,000 people appeared to have gone on holiday together and were all getting on. Very well. There were a lot of blokes in dresses (as Mick Jagger, a man never afraid of a frock, once said, all English men like to wear a dress...), a group of orange-painted Oompaloompas, some chaps in cricket whites, a team of girl's in red and white Where's-Wally kit, flower fairies everywhere, a couple in 1940s evening dress, and these were just the punters. I visited an apocalyptic future amongst the fire-breathing machines in Arcadia and the peace, love and healing garden in the Green Fields. I walked for miles, I drank beer from a paper cup and ate a Real-Deal cheese burger. And after I'd watched Kylie cavorting across the Pyramid Stage with Scissor Sisters I left the safety of the mixing desk and headed for Avalon to embrace my inner hippie and dance inappropriately under a full moon to Alabama 3. And frankly, don't call the doctor......I'm gonna get better.

Top tip: do things you haven't done for 20 years........who knows what might happen...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Something About Mary

Mary Portas made me cry and all she did was unite three sisters in their love of fruit and veg. Pitiful? Perimenopausal? Either way, I'm a sucker for those make-it-alright-happy-ever-after shows, I'd like Mary to come round and put my life in order. In fact, my new found love for her knows no bounds since I bumped in to her on the Marylebone High Street. I say 'bumped' more of a swerve; she hurtled round the corner in full voice, all big bags and red hair, as I was changing my mind as to where I was going for a coffee, and suddenly we were eye-ball-to-eye-ball. She beamed, looking rather fab having newly turned 50, swerved and continued her odyssey.

I have to say I wasn't particularly enamoured when I first came across the tall redhead, especially when she started revamping charity shops. I can understand the need for profile raising and profit margins in order to swell the coffers of cancer research and feed-the-poor-people-in-Africa outlets, but it didn't help my elusive search for top bargains at bottom prices. It was Desert Island Discs that did it....doesn't it always? Her extraordinarily high-octane, over-flowing cup of enthusiasm for all things, can-do attitude, belies a childhood of loss and dreams dashed. The fourth of 5 kids, left to fend for themselves after the early death of her mother, swiftly followed by that of her father, saw her taking care of her younger brother and loosing out on her place at RADA. Undaunted, she pursued a career in retail, starting in John Lewis and ending up as being credited with turning Harvey Nichols into a household name, synonymous with all things glamorous, the one-stop shop for the uber-fashionista. The jump to TV was only a contract away. And now she truly is Queen of Shops. Not only did she marry and raise a son and daughter, she amicably divorced and moved in with Grazia Magazine's fashion features editor, Melanie Rickey, and everyone gets on like a house on fire. How cool is that?

Top tip: If you give yourself only one pampering treat, check out reflexology: get your feet flip-flop-fresh and put a spring in your step.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Drive slow ....... homie

Musically, I have always believed my tastes to be reasonably eclectic, although a rock chick at heart (who can say no to a bad boy flanked by guitar and drum?) I can get dizzy over Rachmaninov, Annie Lennox, Tinariwen and Mumford & Sons, with equal gusto, hell the first CD I ever bought was Doris Day's Greatest Hits. But one thing I do know: I don't like rap. That is until recently. It started with Eminem (doesn't it always) and then I found myself humming along to Dizzee Rascal, asking Snoop Doggy Dogg, what's my name? Urging Kanye West to drive slow, homie, and when Alicia Keys put me in an Empire State of Mind it was the Jay Z version I waved my arms aloft to. I used to find it a bit scary, what with all those hoes and bitches and brand new trainers everyday, badly worn baseball caps and bling. But no. It's not just scratching, sampling, hip hop and beatbox, check out the lyrics. Eminem's Lose Yourself is pure poetry and don't get me started on Not Afraid. Not only that, some of these guys are the richest artists in the world, they seem to have incredible business acumen, 50 Cent invested in a vitamin water and made millions.....not too shabby. But fear not, although I shall be definitely embracing my inner hoodie this summer, I can still be found dancing bare foot to Patti Smith at the Serpentine Sessions.

In lieu of any sign of a proper summer kicking in, I have decided to eat my way to a sunny disposition. My current obsessions to brighten up these dull days are: oily tomato salads heavy with garlic and basil, tender English asparagus squeezed with lemon, round, pink radishes dipped in salt and lashings of Rose. Just stick a hot water bottle up your jumper, close your eyes and enjoy the Mediterranean ....... on a plate.

Top tip: homemade houmous: a can of chick peas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and a pinch of salt whizzed in the blender. Delicious, nutricious, cheap and aparently very good for pre and meneopausal women!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Show me the Culture.

My love of museums is definitely on the up, well hanging out anywhere where things are older than me is always a good thing for making you feel young in my book. And so it was, my handsome (gay) Boy Racer and I sped off in his sports car to the re-vamped Ashmolean in Oxford. What a joy. As described on The Culture Show, it really is a gem, a sort of potted V & A meets Tate Britain with bells on. We spent several free, joyful hours sucking up art and antiquities and it is very apparent just how much women featured amongst the treasures on show: goddesses, queens and leaders of life. It is also fascinating to see how advanced other civilisations were while here in Blighty we were still struggling to get out of the swamp. There are beautiful examples of carefully crafted home wares and intricately designed coins way back in the BCs and then there's a crude bit of metal that looks like it's been hammered out by a 5 year old, hundreds of years later in Britain. We were definitely the special needs country of the ancient world, no wonder the Romans had such a long run, they must have taken one look and thought 'we're having that'..... In amongst the Greek pottery we noticed an interesting caption. Their love of homoerotic imagery is of course well documented and on one dish a bearded gentleman appears to handling a younger man's genitalia, to his apparent pleasure. The label read, 'A paedophile and his victim'...... which seemed a bit judgemental. Is this a new museum directive I wonder?

After filling up on culture we retired to a near by pub, The Eagle & Child, where we were assured by the plaque on the wall that C. S. Lewis, J. R. Tolkien and the gang were regulars, although this may be true of all the pubs in Oxford. The menu featured a 'platter of pies' which Boy Racer and I decided should not go un-sampled. It was brilliant: various mini homemade pies accompanied by some of the best roast potatoes I've ever had, worth the price of the petrol alone.

Latest bit of age decay: memory. I used to be famed for my elephantine memory, the Bill Wyman of my friends, I was the keeper of the knowledge, able to inform them of the times, dates and places of loves lost and found, victories won and embarrassing mistakes made. However, for some time now I have found my conversations peppered with 'you know, what's his name, in that show, the one with the other one,' and my friends do know, and they can't remember the elusive names either. However, it's getting worse. Although I can still recall, verbatim, a conversation I had at a party in 1982, this weekend I discovered myself horribly double booked. Expected at two different theatres on opposite sides of town, friends eagerly waiting. In an attempt to salvage the debacle and not let anyone down I mismanaged spectacularly and succeeded letting only myself down. So now the diary has become a enormous note book in which everything must be written down. And will be as soon as I can remember where I put it.

Top tip (as told to me by my 71 year old yoga teacher): When confronted by a very loud commuter, bellowing into his mobile "I'm on the train", she lent over and in her sexiest voice announced to the listener, "Don't believe a word of it" ..... that shut him up.