Thursday 26 August 2010

Going off online..........

"No" I said for the third time, "they did not leave a card and yes, I have been here all day ..... waiting .... and nobody has tried to deliver anything."
I had been waiting ..... all day ....... for my Waring Pro Classic Blender, in chili red, a gift kindly bestowed upon me by the ex-ex-ex ....... (father of the children) and for which I was highly delighted and very excited to receive. Except I hadn't received it. It appears that the delivery company in question's delivery system can't process my address (three letters beginning with know the one). This is not the first time this has happened, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the first person who's had a bit of their address drop off in the system, but oh the anger and frustration. And I really didn't want to shout at the poor Scottish lady on the other end of the line because I knew it really wasn't her fault. But I did sort of suggest that I'd taken an entire day off work to be in between 8 and 6 which wasn't strictly true as I was working from home. But I was preoccupied........

What moment of madness had possessed us to do this transaction on line?
"Get it online" he'd said, "it'll be easier, use my credit card and just order it."
Why? I live in London. I could walk to a well known department store in London's vibrant West End (albeit quite a long walk but I could...) and buy it. What made us think that ordering off the online was a good idea? So here I was, on day 2, waiting for my virtual present to get real.

And then you know what happened? The box arrived, I ripped it open and ....... the lid was chipped. I say the lid, it was the little, removable plastic bit that can be removed to allow one to drizzle olive oil while making mayonnaise, and I'm sure lots of other really useful things. It's chippedness didn't really affect the blender's capacity to blend but..... it was a ludicrously expensive piece of kit, bought not least for it's beauty and ability to double as an ornament as well as being an invaluable kitchen aid, so it needed to be whole. At least to start with.

And so ......... I re-packaged the Waring Pro Classic and embarked upon a relationship with Cathy, who appears to run/own/man the switchboard, of a department store in ....... Yorkshire. Yes, apparently I had gone all the way to Yorkshire to buy my blender. We got to know each other quite well me and Cathy, what with the checking and double checking to see if the plastic bit alone could travel without the rest of the blender from Yorkshire to London. It can't. And so the original rubbish one then had to be packed up and picked up by the rubbish delivery company and then it had to get all the way back up north and then a new one had to be redelivered all the way down south..............and now, the Waring Pro Classic Blender, in chili red, stands erect in my pink kitchen. And you know what? It's brilliant.

Top tip: Get back in the kitchen, men may come and go but the Waring Pro Classic Blender is guaranteed for life..........

Saturday 14 August 2010

Postcards From The Fringe.

Barry Cryer snogged me. . . . I say snogged but really it was a hug. Two hugs. And a kiss on the cheek. And I told him he was the comedy God of my kitchen, my radio guru, my life-line of hope and humour, my inspiration.......and then I returned to my seat before Security could escort me from the premises. I was on the terrace of the Loft Bar at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh, watching Barry from afar, plucking up the courage, or consuming a sufficient quantity of wine, which ever came first, to approach the High Priest of Hilarity. Top moment: watching Bazza deep in poetic conversation with John Cooper Clarke. Yes, JCC is still alive, hair quaffed high, weaving his way Bambi-like between the talent...... black-clad skinny jeans on skinny legs, ochre skin stretched over ashen face ........ (a little JCC homage there).

I had spent the day, as I had everyday while on my sojourn in Scotland, walking the length and breadth and length again, of Edinburgh, flyering (the technical term for thrusting unwanted flyers advertising shows, in front of a potential audience) for the show I was co-producing. And I had discovered a hitherto unknown talent for it, I could be spraying perfume in Selfridge's any day now. Perhaps it was the unusual offer of 'make a million before lunch.....' or the fact that a middle-aged woman with glossed-lips (the average age of my fellow flyerers was about 25) was asking 'can you afford to miss this opportunity?' Or perhaps it was because I was neither a youth in a dragon costume or a bloke in blue Lycra. Or decked out in full Victorian kit. Anyway, we had built a show, and they were coming.

I'd never been to the Fringe Festival before, never been to Edinburgh, and it was great. The city nestles against the craggy grey rock, over-hung by Aurthur's Seat, billowing beneath a big sky; clouds puffed high over the hills into the blue. You can see the sea. The streets were swelled by the anoraked couples, back-packed, clutching their fat, fringe programmes and spiral-bound note books, taking notes, traversing the North Bridge looking for The Traverse Theatre, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Beyond, Pleasance Beneath.........assembling at The Assembly, going under the comedy radar for underground comedy at the Underbelly. And everywhere the gaily coloured, brightly painted talent, towering above the castle turrets: fire-eating, stilt-walking, fast-talking boys and girls, rolling-up to roll you over in shock, horror, awe and hysterics, while tattooed blokes with bald heads strain to view the Tattoo. In Edinburgh you're never more than ten feet away from some bagpipes.

It was a little overwhelming for a fringe virgin. It took me a couple of days to find my feet and not feel physically sick when trying to wade my way through the mighty listings guide, the size of the September issue of Vogue. But I did see Doon MacKichan's moving and hilarious fight with the fates: Primadoona, the wickedly funny Checkley Bush, Rachel Bridge, Sordid Lives, New Art Club Big Bag Of Boom, Viva Cabaret and the jaw-droppingly talented Meow Meow put the glamour back into crowd-surfing (if ever you get the chance run, kicking and screaming to get a ticket), and Nicky Hobday Conquers Space: a girl, a gorilla suit, some balloons in a cave, a perfect end to a perfect Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Top Tip: don't think about it, just have a go.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Let Me Eat Cake........

I'm tired, I feel tired, I look tired, I'm wearing my bags for life.......I need a holiday but instead I'm going somewhere slightly colder and wetter than London. I'm going north to Edinburgh, for work and play, and a chance to claim another husband (......but that's a whole other story). So, in an attempt to gird my loins before a week of what I hope will be fun-filled-festival-frolic's, I've been staying in and watching telly and I've seen the future. It's not good. But, depicted through the eyes of Jo Brand and her able cohorts, Getting On, is brilliant...... and horribly funny; shinning a light on the rubber-gummed chaos that is the spoon-fed world of the geriatric ward. I don't want to go there, who does? Do we start stock-piling the meds now, should the day come when our dignity is forcibly removed by some bloke in a white coat prescribing the drugs, drips and round the clock care that will ensure we can't shuffle off this mortal coil? Or indeed shuffle of to Switzerland, where dispatching the elderly and infirm is beginning to rival Toblerone and the cuckoo clock as tourist attractions.

But, while we are still breathing the ageing process does, inevitably, roll on. As it does for our parents. Having lost several (real and step) I still have a mother. One who has said, since I was a child, 'if I ever end up like that, put a pillow over my head'. And there have been times, since I was a child, when the thought, 'where's that pillow?' has crossed my ungrateful-bad-daughter mind. However, I now think I've found the perfect answer to the minefield that is the day-out-with-mum date. Yes, wisdom is finally catching up with age. Art galleries. I love going to galleries: London, Edinburgh, Switzerland...if they've got a gallery I'm going. Four years at art college not wasted. And so I took her to see the extraordinarily haunting images by Leah Gordon at Riflemaker and then on to The Haunch Of Venison (yes I know ..... it sounds more like we were on an oak-beamed-inglenook pub crawl) where we walked through Joana Vasconcelos' ethereal, fluorescent fairy garden, before bracing ourselves for the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. Galleries by their very definition discourage prolonged conversation and therefore there is less chance of the caustic comments, criticisms and frustrations of a lifetime of misunderstood intentions and unfinished sentences, to bubble to the surface and overflow into an already swelled river of guilt, recrimination and self-doubt.

Having fed our souls it was time to feed our faces. So we went across the road to The Wolseley, a place of calm amidst the endless ebb and flow of mac-packed tourists: it looks beautiful, everyone treats you like something between a long lost friend and Dame Judi Dench and on a good day you might even see Rupert Everett. And they do a delicious tea. If the cinema is my place of comfort and the gallery is my place of worship, then the emporium of fine food is my spiritual home. And my Mum's. We shared moist, mouth-popping, apple & poppy-seed cake, chocolate eclairs and mini-macaroons of the French, rather than Thora Hird, variety, and drank endless cups of Earl Grey, poured from a silver teapot. Bliss. And you can't talk with your mouth full.

Top tip: Cake can solve almost anything, if not a family friend, take a friend out to tea.

Friday 6 August 2010

Weather or not.......

I woke up early, the sun was shinning. A beautiful day. I got up, put on a summer dress: black with a red and white flower print, buttons up the front, I bought it in Spitalfield's Market: cute with more than a hint of ho-down. Then I put on strappy sandals to go out. The sun went in. I put on socks and tan leather, vintage cowboy boots. And a cardi. The clouds thickened. I added a jacket. It went dark. I put on a coat instead and took my umbrella. This is not summer.......

Top tip: an umbrella is a handbag essential.

Monday 2 August 2010

No comfort from strangers....

I have a friend who is not so much dating as 'flinging' with a man who broke her heart over 20 years ago. He married the girl he'd dumped her for, now he's divorced. Home alone, he presumably mused upon his past.... a common event when the present goes wrong and we can't see a future. He found her on Facebook. She's not mad about him but she was free. Another friend was 'reunited' by mutual friends, with a man with whom she'd had a one-night stand 25 years earlier. Both now divorced with kids growing up, they managed 18 months of romantic bliss until France (the country that is) put an end to it. I myself clocked up several years with the good friend of a good friend, a man whose path I'd crisscrossed for over 20 years, until his mid-life crisis proved you really can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that's a whole other story (as Norman Mailer's last wife so brilliantly put it: 'I bought a ticket to the circus. I don't know why I was surprised to see elephants....') In fact, just recently I was approached by two gentlemen callers: one from the very-long-time-ago past, the other a mere ten years ago, both passing through and in need of company.

It's a story I keep hearing recently: 'we actually met years ago....'. Maybe it's an age thing. When you've been around for quite a lot of years there's been enough time for divorce or death to kick in. And there is something strangely comforting in a past remembered if not shared, a suggestion of known provenance rather than the leap of faith into the unknown arms of a stranger. Which has it's place. And it's time. But is a return to the past a good move? Or are we trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? If it didn't happen then, why will it work now? Or was it just the timing that was out, the planets wrongly aliened, the fact you'd already let the wrong one in?

The joy of dating past forty is no less pockmarked by pain, than at any other time. In fact it's worse. Devoid of youthful resilience and an endless supply of potential suitors, it's a tough call. The Internet, that bastion of open-hearted lust monkeys, is no place for old people. The extremely attractive, financially sorted girlfriend who'd flirted with a few virtual dates before she found love in the arms of the old flame from France, recently returned to the net and decided to be honest about her age of 55. Nothing, no one, zilch, zero, not even one of the bald boys. Embracing her maturity, she tried an over 50s site and yes, there were takers, but.......they were all so old. Is the only way forward to go backwards? It's harder for women, we can't even grow old disgracefully. Take some 50 year old man, fill him full of vodka, sit him at a bar with a fag on (oh those were the days) and women will be queuing round the bloke (see Serge for verification....) try the reverse as a women? Not such a good look. And no one wants to wake up looking like Bill Wyman. Oh the injustice of aging.......

Top tip: keep young and beautiful with 2 parts flaxseed (also known as linseed, who knew...) 1 part pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds (Neal's Yard make this ready mixed) quick whizz in the grinder and sprinkle on cereal, soups......anything. Am for 2 large spoonfuls a day for all your omega needs.