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What better or more fitting way is there to spend Valentine’s Day than with a bottle of Lambrusco, copious packets of Walker’s crisps, a slew of horror flicks, two pervy cats, and four psychotic bison frise dogs breathing down your neck? Yup, that’s exactly how I spent what’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year.
Rather than endure Valentine’s Day on my own (last year I’d given a talk on erotic writing to creative writing MA students at Roehampton University, which was followed by a “date” consisting of my being allocated one token drink, my evening culminating in a delayed train home due to a “fatality” on the line at Romford – not sure if the suicide was a result of a broken heart or a result of living in Romford), I decided to head to that exotic gem of northern England known as Blackpool. Bear in mind that this English seaside resort town has as one of its claims to fame a “space invasion” (where’s Ziggy Stardust when you need him?) featuring several hovering spaceships on Gynn Island (in reality a roundabout), not to mention copious doses of the clap from all those hen nights (a more sedate version of which can be found in my short story “Hen Night” on Amazon Kindle) and stag dos and assorted dubious establishments catering to – dare I use the word – gentlemen.
Now I’m not going to diss Blackpool. I’m sure it’s a damned sight better than Skeggie (aka Skegness, home to the proverbial “dirty weekend” – a place where I’ve yet to go and may well manage to live without having gone). Blackpool does have some good things going for it (other than the Tower, Blackpool rock, and zillions of cheap trinkets on offer) – one being that my good mate Ashley Lister and his lovely wife Tracy and their lovely son Ashley Jr. all live there, the other being that it’s known as “the gay capital of the North”. Although I always seem to miss the Gay Pride Parade, I did go to a drag club called Funny Girls there a couple of years back. It wasn’t too bad as far as drag revues go, save for the fact there was no place to sit and I ended up with a hell of a backache by the time the show ended. Plus the place was packed with raucous females out on a hen night which – in my humble view – is enough to turn even the most masculine hetero male into a raging queen. What made it even worse was the fact that these creatures all wore these cute little furry bunny tails clipped to their rather uncute and unlittle posteriors. The sight was enough to make any man’s mars and venus shrivel up and die.
Meanwhile back at the ranch. At Chez Lister, we partook of a romantic orgy of blood, zombies, cannibals, vampires, and crazed killers all weekend long, the lineup of which included: Sweeney Todd; Dracula, Prince of Darkness; 30 Days of Night; 1408; Hannibal Rising; and Vacancy. Now I must confess that I did feel a bit of the old amorous Valentine’s Day tingle while watching Hannibal Rising. That Gaspard Ulliel isn’t too shabby. In fact, I can conjure up some very romantic scenarios featuring him in the lead role (no pun intended). Oh, and Andrew Garfield too. Okay, let’s throw in Jamie Draven while we’re at it; I do want to be fair here. And if anyone out there knows one or more of these nice lads, kindly pass on the word that I’m single and an absolutely lovely lass – they’d be hard-pressed to find better! (Hey, if I can’t use my blog for my own sinister purposes then what’s the bloody point?)
Did I mention that I played Upwords with the two Ashleys? For those of you unfamiliar with this board game, think of it like council estate Scrabble, with the words forming those grim tower blocks you see all over Britain which were built in an effort to provide public housing and which in London you can now pay full market rent to live in – no extra fees for the graffiti, broken lifts and muggings. During our tourney, I somehow managed to end up with too many tiles of the letter U; I suspect it was part of some father-son plot to cause me to lose the game. Things really began to disintegrate when I was forced to repeatedly place words such as “oh” and “uh” on the board. I mean, how lame is that? Three games and I’d had enough. I next embarked on a jigsaw puzzle, but got annoyed after about an hour, retiring to the living room for a PlayStation game featuring Darth Vader and a host of other butch animated male characters, along with a handful of pneumatic animated female bimbos emitting noises like their flesh-and-blood pneumatic counterparts in porn. I must admit that while playing I became increasingly aggressive, experiencing a killer instinct the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since I lived in Los Angeles – an instinct that usually kicked into gear whenever I drove on the freeways, which was pretty much all the time.
Now don’t go thinking that my Valentine’s weekend was all bloodshed, mayhem and crisps. There was some romance (other than that provided by Monsieur Ulliel). I got to lie back on the sofa in peel me a grape fashion listening to Ashley Jr. play the piano. Then there was my toast thief Spike, who courted me all weekend long by performing The Spike Dance. I tell you, it’s a real talent to be able to get your head and your arse at the same angle. Imagine a U-shaped dog and you get the picture. And hey, if you think it’s easy, YOU try doing it!
Hmmm. I wonder what’s in store for me next Valentine’s Day…
View the rest of my holiday snaps on Flickr.
Watch videos from my “dirty weekend”!
It’s now Day 2 in – dum da-da DUM - The Adventures of the New Vacuum Cleaner!
…Well, if it ever bloody gets here, that is.
Don’t you just LOVE waiting around for delivery men? I say “men” because they are usually always men, therefore it figures that everything will be a complete cock-up (no pun intended) when men are involved in having to sort anything out other than their dirty socks. Though come to think of it, they can’t even get that right. Indeed, the world is run by men. Do we need any further evidence of their incompetence? Having said that, I’m no great fan of women either. On the contrary. In fact, I think we need an entirely new gender since neither of the two we’re now stuck with appear to be of any benefit to society, or the world in general. Back to the drawing board, Mr. Darwin!
So, yesterday while I waited at home all day for the Argos delivery van, my little heart pounding with excitement over the prospect of finally being able to vacuum my carpets after more than two months (my previous vacuum committed suicide) – forgoing an urgent trip to the post office I should add – an attempt was made to deliver my new vacuum cleaner to the occupant of another flat. I find this most disconcerting, seeing that my address was correct on the order and has since been confirmed and reconfirmed and reconfirmed yet again. I’m certain they all went down the pub last night while I left the outside light burning my carbon footprint even deeper into the earth’s soil as I waited for an after-hours delivery that never arrived. If this keeps up much longer, I’ll be thirsting for revenge (
The thought that someone else might be vacuuming their flat with my lovely new bagless vacuum cleaner with hose and attachments which was ordered for me as a gift by one of my loftmen really sticks in my craw. I can’t abide infidelity of any sort, not even if committed by a vacuum cleaner. As for the bestower of said vacuum cleaner, I have a suspicion he’s trying to make up for the rather lax service of late I’ve been receiving from my original loftman, who’s ignored my numerous and increasingly desperate pleas to take me to Ikea to buy some lamps (I had two die on me) and a new kitchen rug (spilled bleach on the old). I also have several empty suitcases on the landing along with two empty boxes that need storing up in the loft. I’m now at the point where I’m calling this catastrophe on my landing “Installation Art.” Tracey Emin‘s got nothing over me!
I tell you, things are getting so grim round ‘ere that I’ve been forced to advertise for a new loftman. I mean, what’s a single girl living on her own in Blighty to do? As I’ve found out, you can’t count on anyone these days, especially men. I did get some replies to my job posting, however, and yes, I’ve pretty much decided on my new loftman. He’s cute, foreign, and he really likes my bear. As a matter of fact, they’re becoming quite chummy! The only problem is, my prospective loftman doesn’t have a visa for the UK. But other than that, he’s perfect!
Meanwhile, from the upstairs window I peer down at the street below, hoping to see the Argos delivery van pull up outside. How much longer must I wait?????
An evening of tech networking at a trendy bar in Brick Lane last Friday evening kicked off to a resounding start when I had the pleasure of being searched as part of a terrorist operation by London’s finest. (Or should I say the pleasure was all theirs?) Apparently what transpired is officially classified as a “Stop and Account” – and I’ve a souvenir to prove it. Okay, I know I can get a bit intense sometimes, especially in romantic situations, but to be stopped by the police as a possible terrorist suspect? Bad enough my poor bear had to contend with a body search last September at San Francisco International Airport, but now me? Is something wrong with this picture?
I know; you probably don’t believe me anymore. Hell, I don’t believe me either. My life just seems to get more and more ridiculous by the day – and these are just the little tidbits I choose to actually tell you about. Can you imagine the bits I don’t disclose? Why, it doesn’t bear thinking about! Now before you go getting all hot and bothered, let me clarify the situation: it was not a body search. There was no patting down of my bits (they just love doing this to me at Heathrow!), and no bodily orifices probed. (I prefer to reserve that for special occasions.) Besides, it was too bloody cold out to strip off for the London Met. No, it was more of a handbag search – and a superficial one at that, as if we were just going through the motions…
…As perhaps we were.
Why me? That’s a question I always ask myself – a question for which I never receive an answer. I can only conclude that it’s my aura. It was all my fault, I realise that now. I saw people being stopped left and right, and wondered why there was such a huge police presence on Brick Lane, especially at only half past six in the evening. I’ve been there many times and never have I seen this. I mean, had someone stuck a bomb in a curry? Had one of the Bangladeshi sweets exploded with nails? Maybe I should’ve taken the hint and gone off in the other direction, but I couldn’t find the venue where this geek and meet was supposed to be held and frankly, I was getting annoyed.
I noticed one officer standing about with nothing to do, so I went over to ask him for directions to the bar, which to all intents and purposes either didn’t exist or didn’t want to be found. Well, not only did he give me completely erroneous information (guess he wasn’t from around these parts), but he glommed onto me for this terrorist schtick. I told him that I’d always thought London coppers were supposed to be nice, not like the big bad mean ones in America with their big guns, whereupon he assured me that London coppers are nice, and they don’t carry guns. (Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?). He then proceeded to take down my vital statistics (well, those I chose to give), even asking for my address. I should have lied. For all I know that cheeky copper will be coming round with a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I mean, you can never tell these days.
Now I don’t want to get all controversial here (or maybe I do), but it seemed odd that in an area of East London so heavily populated with ethnic minorities I saw not even one member of an ethnic minority being stopped – only those who were clearly not members of an ethnic minority, just pasty English folk (or, in my case, pasty Hungarian-American folk). Granted, perhaps if I’d hung about longer it might have happened, but I was there long enough to suss the setup, and thereby conclude that what was purported to be an all-inclusive “Stop and Account” did not appear to be so all-inclusive.
Was this a case of reverse-discrimination tactics by the police to prove a point to those in the local community who are generally the targets of such discrimination? Because I can’t help thinking that if someone from a minority had been stopped for a terrorist search (and possibly detained), all hell would’ve broken loose – especially in this part of London. The incident would have hit every television channel and newspaper in the country, with every solicitor in the country fighting one another tooth and nail to take on the case pro bono. Hey, I can only go by my observations, and that is what I observed, so please don’t lay any accusations of racism on my doorstep (though I’m sure someone will still have a go at me). I had a long-term relationship with a man from a country on virtually everyone’s shit list – a country accused of sponsoring terrorism; I doubt the BNP will be welcoming me into their ranks anytime soon!
As for my new career in anarchy, despite the very respectful and friendly demeanour of the officer in question, I wonder if I should have kicked up a fuss. I mean, how often do you hear about expat American authors being “profiled” by the police? I might start a whole new trend. In retrospect, however, it was probably a wise move on my part to omit the fact that I write and edit erotic fiction when speaking to the officer, even though I could have gotten some book sales out of the deal. And it was probably wiser yet to keep stum about my foray into crime fiction with my anthology Getting Even: Revenge Stories (
Ca). Think what might have happened to me then!
Mind you, don’t most prisons have WiFi access these days?
Well, I’ve barely been back in the UK for 24 hours and I already have an all-new train adventure to tell you about. I mean, I didn’t expect this much excitement so soon after returning home to Blighty, but as they say, “It’s all go round ‘ere!”
It all began when I dragged my jetlagged self into Central London on Saturday to meet a friend for lunch, with us starting out in the South Bank and ending up at a curry house in Soho. Okay, so the vindaloo nearly killed me (more like blew the back of my bloody head off), but I managed to survive both it and the usual swarm of Saturday afternoon humanity one tends to encounter on Oxford Street. I’m sure my face was still beet-red from the crowds and the vindaloo by the time I reached Tottenham Court Road tube station, having to reroute myself there after the big Gaza demonstration screwed up any chances of making it into the Oxford Circus station, let alone crossing the road to John Lewis, where I’d hoped to find an adaptor. Instead I glommed onto two confused-looking women and hurled myself in the opposite direction, just wanting to get the hell out of there asap.
The tube wasn’t very interesting, but my train ride back to Essex was. (If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts you’ll know that something always seems to happen on my train.) Being an early Saturday evening my car was crowded with passengers on their way home from their various outtings in the city, so I sat with a trio of lads, who instantly took me under their protective wings and welcomed me to their little party. I must’ve looked more lost and forlorn than usual, so I was happy for the distraction and hilarity they provided – and they provided it aplenty! Indeed, there was never a dull moment with this charming troika, who started out by offering me polite little smiles, after which proper introductions ensued. Obviously I didn’t tell them that I was a famous author of both erotic literature and revenge stories (
Ca). After all, a woman must maintain some aura of mystery, right?
I had a front-row seat as one of them received a phone call, the booming male voice on the other end giving him a right bollocking for not turning up for a job interview. The rest of us were trying to contain our laughter so as not to make the situation any worse for the hapless job seeker, but we weren’t too successful. I don’t usually like to laugh at other people’s misfortunes, but in this case I made an exception. He probably wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. I mean, if he’d wanted it badly enough he would’ve gone for the interview surely? He soon saw the funny side of it after the caller rang off, whereupon he decided to discuss Michael Jackson until I cut him off, informing him that I can’t stand Michael Jackson.
After disclosing that two of them were aged 19, with the one next to me a seasoned old man of 20, the lad across from me (their chief spokesperson from what I gathered) played a game of “Guess the Accent” and got mine right on the second try (Canadian is usually the first guess). He next began to interview me as to my relationship status, gaping in disbelief when I told him. He digested this information for a moment, then asked politely and respectfully if I’d consider going out with him, only to engage the shy lad beside me into this romantic discussion, suggesting to him that he might “walk the nice lady home” from the train station – that “nice lady” being me. Seems all three of them wanted to walk me home, and it wasn’t even dark yet! Who says there’s no gallantry in the Englishman? – or, for that matter, the Essex chav? And before you scoff, let me say this: I didn’t hear one single curse or foul word pass through the lips of these lads. Now if that isn’t proof that God exists, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, they invited me out for a night on the town (or rather the town we all coincidentally live in). In fact, there was even a mention of a dozen red roses. Although I didn’t give them a definite answer, I didn’t say no either. Just before they got off the train at Romford (they decided to kill some time at The Brewery since I’d said I was jetlagged and planned to just crash at home for the night), I was given the phone number of their head honcho.
I tell you, if an artist had to paint my life, it would definitely be Salvador Dalí were he still alive. Nevertheless, I have to admit, those lads from the train made me laugh, and they were very sweet and gentlemanly too. I could do worse. (And honey, I have!)
So what do you think? Should I take them up on their offer?
What with all the Presidential fanfare going on and being back in America this past month, I guess it brought back some memories for me. You see, I too, had an interest in politics at one time. Or rather an interest in someone who was heavily involved in them. “And who might that be?” I hear you asking. Well, think short, cute and Greek, and what do you get? George Stephanopoulos!
Indeed, I quite fancied the fellow (not quite sure what’s up with me and these quirky little guys, but I always seem to go for them – or at least I do on those rare occasions when I actually go for anyone at all). In fact, I fancied George so much that I started up a regular correspondence with him, which led to my receiving a special ticket to tour the White House during the grand old days of the Clinton Administration. I was doing research for a novel I was writing – a novel which never got published or, for that matter, finished. (And no, it wasn’t my M. S. Valentine novel The Captivity of Celia!). Washington was a kinder and gentler place back then, as were those working within it – save for Hillary reportedly throwing an ashtray at Bill in the Oval Office, should you choose to believe what George wrote in his memoirs. Gosh, I wonder if I’m in his memoirs? After all, I did stop by his Adams-Morgan apartment one afternoon. (I’ll leave you to dwell on that one!)
I’m afraid my interest in politics has waned considerably since that time, as did my hankering for George. As many of you know, I moved to England, leaving behind my broken-hearted little Greek in D.C. I understand he’s never been the same since I left and fell into a deep depression. Frankly, I feel terrible about the whole thing, especially the part about him marrying someone else on the rebound. But what was I supposed to do? All that talk about having me convert to the Greek Orthodox church – yes, I realise it meant a lot to him. He’s the son of a Greek Orthodox priest, and his uncle is a Greek Orthodox priest, and I think his grandfather was one as well. Why, George studied to become one himself before following a career path to Washington. That’s a hell of a lot of priests in one family, you must admit.
Why did he have to complicate things? I didn’t ask for much, I didn’t make demands. I’d have been happy just with the dolmades and tzatziki and moussaka and diples. I wouldn’t even have minded having to go to all those Greek festivals; I can break plates and dance with the best of them! But no. He had to have it all his way. What is it with these men? Why can’t they ever listen to reason?
I know, I know. I spent an entire month in America, visiting two coasts (Florida and California), and all I have to blog about is a lousy fifty dollar bill?
Well, it isn’t just any fifty dollar bill. It’s a special fifty dollar bill. Or special to me anyway. Thank god I hadn’t given it to the taxi driver who took me to San Jose International Airport last Wednesday morning. Fortunately, I’d found enough cash on me to scrape together my fare without having to relinquish it, despite the fact that it was given to me for this express purpose. The fifty was still safely folded into one-fourth of its original size inside my wallet when I returned to Fort Lauderdale International Airport and had remained there until…
… a trip to Office Max on Sunday afternoon. I’d gone in to buy some cheap 2 gig USB flash drives (cheap in U.S. dollars anyway). When I went to pay, the cashier told me there was a special deal on some 4 gig flash drives that were even cheaper than the 2 gig ones I’d already chosen. I guess in all the excitement of the moment (and here you thought I led an interesting life) I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing. I reached into my wallet, removed the fifty, and plonked it down on the counter. The fact that I had a $25-off coupon only added to the confusion and pandemonium and before I knew it, I’d given away something that held great significance to me.
When I returned to the car, I suddenly realised what I’d done. I was in tears. How could I have been so stupid? HOW??? Seeing my state, my mother turned her car around and returned back to the crowded parking lot, speeding up and down lanes, ignoring stop signs, and nearly running over several dimwitted pedestrians just so I could get my precious fifty dollar bill back.
I was in a panic. What if it wasn’t there anymore? What if there were other fifty dollar bills in the cash register and we couldn’t figure out which one was mine? What if they rang the police, thinking I was operating some kind of counterfeit scheme or con game? South Florida isn’t high on my list of favourite places, therefore the thought of being imprisoned here held little appeal. Mind you, the thought of returning home to Blighty after being back in the San Francisco Bay Area again held little appeal either. I mean, the only thing I have waiting for me back in England is a broken vacuum cleaner.
I nearly pulled the glass doors out of their hinges in my haste to get back into the store. The cashier saw my panicked face racing toward her from even before I entered. I came to a skidding halt in front of her and poured out my tale of woe – or rather a vastly abbreviated version of it, since there’s only so much Pasternakian tragedy a person can take. My stricken expression must have told her all she needed to know. (Even the guy who’d helped me earlier looked on the verge of tears.) The cashier popped open the register and pulled out a fifty. Is it my fifty? I asked dubiously, hoping she wouldn’t take advantage of my delicate emotional state. I explained to her that my fifty was very crisp and new, and had been folded into one-fourth its original size. She said yes, it was definitely mine, as it was the only fifty in the cash register. And judging from the lack of customers, it seemed unlikely that she was lying to me. I hope not anyway. Christ, even now I’m worrying and wondering. Should I go back to double check?
And will they call the police this time if I do?