Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MORE TALES OF TWO CITIES

“Why do you need two places?” It was an eminently sensible question from a great friend who was querying why I currently split my time between Los Angeles and New York. A little weary of the former, I was trying to decide where to base my second home when the lease expires in May.
   
I’ve lived in two places most of my adult life. At one point, four – London, Cardiff, Paris, Marbella (it’s a very long story that involved buying pine furniture when I was going to be living with a man and then holding on to it when we broke up. I finally chucked it all last year. It was a  harder break-up than the one with him had been).
   
But back to the States. I don’t like Miami (expensive, too many thin people, noisy) or, come to that, anywhere else in Florida (mosquitoes, Trumpites and God lovers). I don’t want the UK (Brexiteers, hysterical (and not in a ho ho ho kind of way) anti-Trumpites), and despite Canada having a very cute president in Trudeau, at the end of the day it’s still Canada.
   
The sensible thing to do would be to bring the stuff I really want to keep to NY and sell the rest. As I already have a big storage unit in the UK, I don’t really want a second in the US (having a home plus two storage units is even more insane that having two homes – at least, according to my logic). However, my place in NY is not huge and even bringing the bare minimum would make it look like a storage unit. So then I’d still have two storage units but no home.
   
My answer, therefore, to my friend’s question was: “I need somewhere to put my sofas.” Logic, you may have realised by now, has never been my strong point. I’d make a terrible lawyer – unless it was one on Law and Order and I was forced to stick to the script.
   
The decision now is where the sofas are heading. I’d rather stay on the East Coast but want somewhere warm. Everyone has assured me I would love Charleston in South Carolina. I must admit, it looks rather pretty, but even the most cursory glance on Google at Top Ten Things to Do in Charleston doesn’t have me rushing for the airport.
   
Walking, biking, a bridge, a church, a swamp garden . . . I already feel rigor mortis setting in.
   
I’ve always loved Texans who, of all the Americans I’ve met, seem the most fun-loving, but I wouldn’t like the extreme weather or the even more extreme political views of middle America (then there’s that God problem again). I loathe Las Vegas with a passion (although I’ve booked to see Elton John’s show and am mega-excited), saw everything I needed to of Boston through the plane window coming in to land, and my little experience of New Jersey makes Charleston look like New Orleans on speed.
   
Los Angeles still seems like the obvious alternative. I love the West Coast weather and, as a place to escape the summer humidity and winter winds of New York, it’s a great contrast. The problem is that the things I love about it are the things I dislike, too. Film, TV, showbiz and media are my passions in a life that I am grateful every day to be a part of. But then there is the downside of all that – the people struggling to make it in those areas and, invariably, being disappointed: the scent of hope, the reek of failure.
   
It’s also a very noisy city – ironically, I find it far noisier than New York, where the undercurrent buzz of a city in permanent flow is strangely calming and comforting. In LA, there is permanent traffic noise, loud music in every shop and restaurant (still a blessed rarity in NY), and hordes of weed-smoking, rowdy young people in every apartment block, turning the places into undesirable frat houses.
   
Which brings me to the dreaded weed. The smell is everywhere and it’s gross. I’m not going to get into an argument about the pros and cons – everyone with an opinion is intransigent on the subject, I have discovered – but even the car fumes are suffocating under the stink of the stuff. It’s not just the offensiveness of the smell: I hear and see so many people, every day – actors, writers, directors – missing appointments because they were up until 4am smoking weed. If that’s your thing, fine; but don’t then whinge about not being able to make it in an industry where there are thousands at the top of their game, not wasting time talking bollocks with their mates until the early hours.
   
This leaves me in limbo, at least until May when I have more decisions to make. I think I could be happy in a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cubicle, just travelling the world and coming and going at my leisure. Maybe Sir Richard will accommodate me.
   
I’d love to hear any other suggestions. Sending the men in white coats to lock me up on grounds of insanity is not an option, by the way.

   

Monday, January 30, 2017

LIVING AT THE EDGE

When I’m in New York, I have simple rules that make life a lot easier: namely, never go anywhere involving the words “East” “upper”, or “shared”. The first ensures that when crossing from West 45th, where I live, I will be stuck in a taxi whose idea of a short cut is going via Missouri. The second always entails getting on the wrong subway train that is going in the opposite direction, while the third means . . . well, I’ve never found out, because anything involving another person’s plans inevitably involves missing the start of the movie, failing to find seats at the bar, or arguing over whose turn it is to pay the Uber.
   
In LA, I have just one rule: don’t go anywhere – at least, don’t go anywhere further than three miles away if you want to be back home this side of Christmas. And so, when my dear friend and brilliant food PR Bradley Tuck (could anyone’s name ever be better suited to his job?) suggested going to Silver Lake for brunch, the words struck me with horror. Anything with a metal in its title is never a good sign and screams distance – Australia’s Gold Coast, the Ironback Mountains of Collabria (prone to avalanches). Coupled with the word “lakes”, this could mean only one thing. Canada.
   
There was more to come: the restaurant is called Cliff’s Edge, which added fuel to the fire. Not only were we going to Canada, we were all going to die!
   
Thanks to Google Maps, I discovered that Silver Lake is only four miles from where I live and, at just a mile out of my comfort zone, I decided to risk all. Armed with my hiking boots, hip flask and ice pick (one can never be too careful heading east), Bradley enthused about the restaurant that, since it opened in June 2004, has garnered praise from critics, locals and its fair share of celebrity diners.
   
The huge outside space, shaded by foliage and created around a 60 year old Ficus tree at its heart does not disappoint. It’s hard to reconcile the blandness of the typical LA road that leads one to this place of magical, yet unostentatious splendour. Interior designer and urban developer Dana Hollister (one of three co-owners) has created a soulful space of colour, warmth and inviting elegance. The Ficus feels both like a shrine and an impartial observer: comfortable and happy in the shared joy it perceives all around (I love trees).
   
And joy it is. Champagne arrives in a carafe I mistakenly assume is a very unusual glass (over-enthusiasm for champagne at brunch is one of my many gastric faults). Then, when the champagne is poured into a large wine glass, I learn from Bradley that this is, in fact, the proper way to serve it, rather than in a flute or coupe. It is, after all, a wine, and needs to be swirled and aired just like any other. I decide that I need another carafe, just to make sure.
   
The oysters that accompany the champagne are the small, delicate kind, not the over-sized elephant ears that make me heave and think I am eating my nether bodily parts. They are beautifully chilled and in no need of the Tabasco sauce with which I normally suffocate oysters to disguise the often algae smell of those that have spent too long in transit. 

My only bugbear in the US is that the oyster is loosened from its shell by the kitchen. I have no idea if this is because Americans are lazy, but when I lived in Paris, part of the pleasure of oyster eating was participating in the process: scooping the flesh with a tiny fork, enjoying that last rubbery break as it left its home; the anticipation of the next part of its journey as it heads towards your mouth (I feel another oyster feast coming on).
   
There are very few things I don’t eat or cook, but I am really bad at desserts (because I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have no interest in them) and eggs. The only time I get to eat eggs is when somebody else cooks them, and there is just something about the timing of brunch that makes eggs acceptable. I can’t eat them at breakfast, not least because I can’t stomach anything more than two cups of tea before 10am (who needs to look at a chicken foetus before you’re fully awake?); and I don’t want eggs at dinner because I’m not four years old. But give me 11am to 1pm, and I’ll down foetuses for Britain.
   
What I especially love about my goat’s cheese omelette is that the cherry tomatoes are on the side. So many omelettes are ruined by tomatoes being thrown into the mix, making the dish a river of thinned blood coursing through yellow flesh struggling against the tide. We discuss tomatoes and I learn that Bradley, like me, is not a fan of tomato juice; however, we draw the line at Bloody Marys, and Vartan Abgaryan (who used to be the chef at Cliff’s Edge) has one that looks perfect. 

My request when ordering a Bloody Mary is always “Easy on the tomato juice”. I think that no matter what you add tomato juice to, it just ends up tasting like tomato juice, holding everything else hostage: it’s the kidnapper of all liquids.
   
I also learn from Vartan how to stop chicken tasting like anything other than chicken. No matter how I cook it – salt, lemon, barbecue sauce – it just tastes the same. I’m not going to give away his secrets, partly because when I move on to the Cotes de Rhone, I suffer a memory lapse. But if you want to sample his food, he now heads up the kitchen at 71Above, Downtown LA’s extraordinary new venture in the city’s tallest building.
   
The Corsican red I was hoping to try is unavailable, but Corsican co-owner Pierre Casanova (I so want to come back with that surname in my next life) enthuses about his country’s liquid assets. Pierre exudes energy and gratitude for the surroundings and a profession he clearly loves. I give him a smattering of my best French, and, after the red wine, I discover I am fluent in Russian, too. Again.
   
My hike over, but ice pick still intact, I return from Canada along the blandness of another LA highway, dreaming of oysters, champagne, and the knowledge that no experience beats the pleasure of eclectic surroundings, lovingly prepared food, the company of Bacchus and the laughter that grows from sharing. 

You see? Sometimes, it’s good to share. Just not on New York’s Upper East Side. 
  
  
  
    
  

      

Saturday, January 28, 2017

UP IN THE (H)AIR - ANOTHER CLOSE SHAVE

A funny thing happens to me when I'm flying. With my dark eyes, high hair and full make-up, I board looking like Elizabeth Taylor, but after 12 hours in the air, I emerge at Arrivals bearing a closer resemblance to Adolf Hitler.
First, there are the clothes. Virgin Atlantic’s Upper gives you a Sleeper Suit, a garment I collect like some kids collect Dinky toys (do they still exist by the way, or am I showing my age?). Upon landing, I can never be bothered to change and so head out in what appears to be something straight out of the wardrobe of Fascist sympathiser Oswald Mosley but without the boots. People awaiting departing flights hide under seats when I approach.
Then there’s my hair, which, not unlike like Hitler’s everyday look, comes to resemble a short-haired Chihuahua that has decided to take up residence uncomfortably on my scalp.
But here’s the worst of it. The moustache. And there the resemblance to the Fuhrer is truly worrying. Because, on any flight over two hours, my facial hair grows at such an alarming rate, people might assume I have undergone a Transgender transformation at 30,000 feet - at the very least, landed an audition in The Muppets as Fozzie Bear's stand-in.
I’ve always had a problem with very wiry, bodily hair. I was born very dark and, from a very young age, my two big toes carried so much dark foliage, rubber ducks away swam away in terror when the twin triffids entered the bath.
My underarms could camouflage a battalion; I can’t see my toes because of the undergrowth on my lower legs; and the single hair that now grows on my chin could pass for a hangman’s noose.
But the moustache has always been the worst. I have to remove it with facial hair cream every day. People tell me to grow it in order to bleach it or have it lasered off, but that would mean my having to look like Hitler for at least six months.
I don’t know what it is about being airborne that makes the hair on my upper lips grow at double, or even triple the rate as it does on land; but all I know is that by the time I’ve finished my entrĂ©e and watched a movie, I look as if I’m about to deliver a speech at the Nuremberg Rally.
I’ve tried everything, including electrical items I see advertised on TV that offer “virtually no pain” when removing facial hair (that word “virtually” always worries me: it’s usually a thin line between nothing and waterboarding where “virtually” is concerned). I’ve even tried shaving with a razor, but I keep coming back to Veet. It used to be known as Neet in the 20s and, later Immac; I have no idea why they changed the name, although I enjoyed the advertising campaign “No more Bush” during one of the product’s more political phases (don’t even get me started on that part of the body: when the plane’s wheels touch down, I could pass for a pony trap).
But although Veet is reliable, I don’t want to be sitting on an aircraft looking as if I have just had a run-in with a soggy marshmallow; worse . . . no, you really don’t want to know the other comparisons. Also, sometimes, even the Veet for sensitive skin can make me look a little red for a couple of hours, as if I’ve been sucking icebergs for a dare.
I suspect Victoria Beckham, who always looks like a catwalk model when leaving a plane, doesn’t have this problem. However, I know that she always sits at the very front of First Class and maybe, when everyone’s asleep, she whips out that Veet in readiness for landing and looking more Ava Gardner than Hitler.
For the present, I’m just going to have to live with it and risk being arrested at airport terminals. There’s only so much beating around the facial bush a girl can do.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

EASTENDERS - BUSMAN'S (PERMANENT) HOLIDAY

So, who’s under the bus in EastEnders? 

Is it Whitney, as Mick suspects, or is it Lee who, for some not yet explained reason, had Whitney’s phone on him?
   
It was the last of many questions I had in two episodes that have seen tragedy befall the Square (yet again). Here are a few more. How come that everyone had to wait until Denise, inside the bus, pulled the EMERGENCY PULL TO OPEN when, outside, it was very clear that there was a sign saying EMERGENCY PUSH TO OPEN that any of the locals could have read and acted upon.
   
How come Stacey didn’t hear the crash? I know she had the radio on indoors, but nothing short of a Rolling Stones concert at the O2 could have blocked the sound of a whacking great, out of control double-decker bus careering through your neighbourhood. 
   
Why did the fire brigade take so long to arrive? Well, actually, they haven’t yet; we have to wait until Thursday for that. The reason, of course, is that the locals had to pull togevver to lift the bus off Martin.
   
It’s not as daft as it sounds. In 2015 in Walthamstow, around 40 or 50 people did just that when a circus-performing unicyclist went into a bus (you really couldn’t make it up). They managed to lift the 12 tonne bus six inches off the ground and the man was saved. Let’s hope they later clubbed together to buy him a car. 
   
It was Max who encouraged everyone to gather round for the big heave-ho (Mick was trying to look concerned but bore his usual expression of the first throes of rigor mortis). Quite why people were standing three deep is anyone’s guess because those in the back two rows really weren’t helping. One extra was smiling so much, I thought she was high on laughing gas. In all, there were probably only about ten people with any pulling power, which made the scene a little ludicrous. 
   
Meanwhile, on the Tube, Sylvia had wet herself before singing Run Rabbit Run. Shirley joined in, much to the amusement of fellow passengers. Cue more extras.
   
Speaking of which, did you notice how many extras there were running around in the market? On any one day, somebody might purchase an apple and another person a hideous frock (that’s a veritable Black Friday by Walford Standards), and stall-holders outnumber customers by two to one. Yet come Deckergate, there were dozens of people running frantically around, looking for loved ones. 

The main cast had the good sense to stay in the Vic, from where Kaffy informed the emergency services on her mobile that they had to “stop the trains” on the Tube track. Call me psychic, but I reckon they’d already got wind of that. 
   
I’m hoping that Martin survives, as I’ve grown rather fond of him, especially since he led his one-man strike in protest against the market possibly being moved. Alas, it’s a bit late for that now, as half the market has already moved to the Tube tracks. Still, it saves the Council the hassle of shifting it to a new venue. God moves in mysterious ways.
   
Another thing that’s worrying me is why no one has tended to the poor driver of the bus. Somebody mentioned that they thought he fell asleep at the wheel, although it’s clear he had a heart attack. Why, anyway, had he chosen to take the “long route” instead of the usual one? Does heart disease make you immune to understanding sat nav?
   
The poor man is still hunched over the wheel (until Thursday, alas), and the ambulance, which has inexplicably parked on the other side of the Square, won’t be able to do a thing when they eventually reach him, as it’s clear he’s a gonner. Still, you’d think that someone would have expressed concern. But oh, no; I forgot. He’s an extra. Superfluous to requirements.
   
And so, we wait with bated breath, to see who’s dead. It’s never who you want though, is it - yes, I’m talking to you, Donna and Kim. Among the current characters, I could list dozens more – not least, most of those kids who have miraculously appeared in a school that has also emanated from nowhere. 
   
At least more deaths will give Billy and Jay something to do over the next few days and, hopefully, Honey will continue to provide Billy with his corned beef and pickle sandwiches he consumes in the front seat of his vehicle when picking up bodies. 

If he offers you one, Jay, don’t touch it; you know where his hands have been. 
   
  

   

AMERICAN (HOT) AIR

American Airlines rewarded me this week for the nice comments I made about their airline on Twitter. 

Don’t get excited. It was a voucher for $25 which, given their exorbitant prices, is enough to buy me one inch of taxiing time on the runway before take-off.
   
I have a chequered history with the airline. A few years back, they were spectacularly unhelpful when my entire life’s worth of jewellery was stolen. AA had insisted I check in my hand baggage and I remembered, too late, that all my jewellery was in there as I was taking it away to be cleaned. The lot went. It was devastating – not just because of what it was worth, but because I lost so many pieces of huge sentimental value. AA could not have cared less. A deaf mute would have been more reassuring.
   
But I was willing to give them another chance (only thanks to their excellent Twitter staff), and my gift came as a result of Tweeting that the new planes, which fly East to West Coast, really are the best in the business. It’s the only airline that offers a truly First Class cabin: individual pods that are bigger than my bathroom, and gourmet food. The airline is also blessed with pilots who keep passengers well informed in advance of any turbulence that might be imminent. As a nervous flyer, the latter is particularly important.
   
Once airborne, however, it all goes horribly wrong. Maybe it’s because AA is a sister airline to snooty British Airways (don’t even get me started on them); maybe it’s because the staff training instructs them never to laugh; maybe it’s because they have all been in their jobs so long, they just resent every moment. Or maybe they’ve just watched too much Downton Abbey. I suspect the latter: what else could account for their behaving like airborne Lord Granthams and treating me like the scullery maid?
   
This trip started well. The Admirals Club lounge at JFK airport is outstanding. Does any other lounge have Bollinger champagne (probably Emirates, but that’s way out of my Air Miles range)? I treated myself to one glass (I don’t like to drink too much when flying – dehydration and jet-lag are not a good combination) and was in a good mood when I boarded.
   
Good, until I sat down and a metal panel by the side of my seat fell open and cut my foot because there was a screw that had not been tightened. The crew could not have been less interested but said they would report it.
   
The second crew member in First (I was lucky enough to have accumulated enough points for this) was pleasant enough, if a little obsequious (very BA style). Take-off went smoothly enough, but the first sign of resentment came when I asked for a set of headphones.
   
Clearly, I had breached some ludicrous etiquette that dictated headphones (Bose, no less) cannot be given out at an altitude below 30,000 feet, but the crew were up and about in the cabin, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. He (let’s call him Pete, to disguise his identity) practically threw them at me.
   
And so, to the TV system. It’s terrible. I was catching up on series four of House of Cards, and a  loud buzzing noise was more pronounced every time a character talked softly (which Robin Wright does. A lot). I mentioned it to Pete, who moved me to another seat, but the same problem occurred.
   
Then, during viewing, the system decided to rewind, fast forward, pause, and play up in all manner of ways. Pete could not hide his irritation but agreed to re-set it. This made no difference and I discovered that the handset had a mind of its own; although I was using the touch screen, the handset had other ideas and was in aggravating mode.
   
But let’s rewind (a bit like the handset). I had pre-ordered my main course but was given a choice of starters. I ordered the salad with “roasted beets”. Now, I’m not a huge beets fan but can manage them if they aren’t pickled or boiled. The salad, beautifully presented, arrived. The beets were boiled. Horrible. I politely asked to change it and explained why. “You didn’t read the menu properly, did you?” said an exasperated Pete. I said nothing and ate my smoked salmon replacement quietly. Fearfully. I actually hate smoked salmon.
   
The main course arrived almost without incident, but when it came to choosing the wine, I said that I didn’t like Californian. “I’m from California,” snapped Pete. I really don’t give a flying ferret where you’re from, Pete; I just want a glass of wine that is not going to require chloroform in order for me to get it down my neck.
   
That said, the meal (chicken, kale quinoa and roasted sprouts (yes, really roasted – talk to your beets guy) was delicious; I just wasn’t that hungry and had to leave some of it. “You really are stuffed,” said Pete, despondently taking it away.
   
When I asked for a second bottle of water, you’d think I had declared war. “Another one?” “Yes, I get dehydrated when I fly,” I (again) politely explained. Pete wanted to take my half full glass away, but I explained I hadn’t finished it yet. “It’s going to spill when we fly into LA,” he argued. We were, at this point, about two hours from landing. I like water. What can I say?
   
Earlier, I had gone to the rest room and, on my return, asked for another glass of Spanish wine. “You’ll have to sit down to drink it,” said an ever more exasperated Pete. “This isn’t a bar.” No shit, Sherlock! Do I look like someone who’s only ever flown on the back of a pigeon?
   
It’s not the first time I’ve had – or seen – problems with First Class (and Business) on American. I fly all the time, on many different airlines, but the superior attitude on both AA and BA is something to behold. Neither airline offers great deals, but when flying First, I expect to be treated with respect (as, indeed, every passenger should be, regardless of class of travel), not like an errant child who is too nervous to raise her hand for fear of causing offence.
   
I am the customer here, American, and I wish as much attention went into staff training as has gone into your fancy new designs. 

By the way, the cut on my leg from said new design is healing nicely, should you be interested. No. I thought not.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

LOOK FORWARD IN ANGER - THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

What an angry week this has been. 

Americans, Brits and pretty much people all over the world shouting at each other about the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump.
   
I followed the build-up to the campaign with enormous interest. It was eight years ago that I decided to come to the USA when Barack Obama was elected President. I felt enormously proud to be living in a world in which a black man could, and had, reached such high office. I sat in from of my TV crying tears of joy.
   
This year, on the night that Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to Trump, I cried tears of despair. Racism, sexism, the language of intolerance, anger and hatred that would not have seemed out of place at a Nuremberg rally – I was not alone in thinking that we are living in dangerous times. The fact that Trump’s ongoing message is shrouded in what many believe to be the language of safety, caring and sharing makes it all the more frightening. 

Who are these voters that can be so hoodwinked by empty rhetoric and cheap sound bites? Well, they are the same people who turned up yesterday to hear and cheer more of the same. True, there were (refreshingly) huge empty spaces on the streets and in the stands from which people watched the Inaugural Parade, and Trump comes in with the lowest approval rating of any President in modern times. He also lost the popular vote in the election by over three million votes.
   
But he has the gig and we must live with it. We can protest and shout and make sure that the voices of the people for whom he does not speak (in Vice President Mike Pence’s case, vociferously speaks against) are heard, over and over.
   
Whatever your politics, the bullying, both online and personally, is something that depresses me hugely. It happened with Brexit and is happening all over again with Trump. Yesterday, I posted a comment about enjoying the Inauguration on CNN. I also commented on the quality of the speakers. 

You’d think I had suggested joining ISIS, so aggressive were some of the comments in response. In fairness, some were calmer and stating facts, but everyone missed the key thing: CNN. I was not saying I enjoyed the Inauguration per se (although I was hugely impressed by the military parade); I specifically referred to CNN. I am a TV critic; watching TV and writing and talking about it is what I do. I looked at all the stations and decided against Fox, which elevates my blood pressure to life-threatening levels, and I rejected Sky on the strength of Kay Burley’s puffa jacket. The BBC blew it when a black woman emerging from inside was described as "Not Michelle Obama." 
   
CNN is always my first choice for news in the USA, and the award-winning Anderson Cooper is one of many jewels in an already glittering crown. Trump has been attacking the station of late and, yesterday, went out of his way to praise Fox News (no surprises there).
   
My enjoyment of CNN was ignored completely on Facebook. Maybe the very mention of the word Inauguration was enough to induce temporary blindness in people reading. Quite why anyone would think my talking about TV coverage means that I endorse Trump is anybody’s guess. If people had bothered to read my comments and articles over the past 18 months, they would have seen that I have done nothing but give my support to Hillary.
   
There was another kind of bullying, too. One person criticised my choice to live in the USA and wailed “I don’t know what you’re looking for.” I don’t have to defend my choices to anyone, but I want to point out (1) I am not “looking” for anything. I found everything I could ever want when I could first hold a pen and knew, without any shadow of doubt, that I was a writer. Not wanted to be one; it’s what I was (2) I love experiencing life on a daily basis, rather than saving up all year for a two-week holiday in Ibiza in August (3) It’s nobody’s goddamned business.
   
I have lived in England, Wales, France, Spain and, now, the USA. I love to travel, meeting new people and exploring new cultures. It’s something I didn’t get to do when I was younger as I spent many years studying and then working my way up the media ladder during many difficult years in London. When I hit my mid-forties (I am now 58), I found that the UK is not kind to older women. The TV presenting jobs dry up, one becomes a social leper if there is not a partner in tow, and any lifestyle that differs from the norm is considered suspicious.
   
In the States, I have found that being older is no deterrent to living life just as enjoyably as I did when I was in my prime (by British standards) in the UK. Paris, too, is kinder to older people, and I loved the six years I spent there. Spain looks after its elderly in the most beautiful complexes and has excellent health care. But in the UK, I started to feel that people were resenting me even for being alive. I don’t mean my family and close friends, of course, but I was tired of being asked whether I was married, had kids, or was “courting” (as they continue to say in Wales).
   
I truly am tired of the attacking nature of many people on social media; it’s why I sometimes take the decision to come off it. I’m glad I don’t have children, but I am extremely close to many of my friends’. If that’s what you enjoy, great. None Of My Business. I have friends who live all over the world. One moved to Thailand because she loves the lifestyle and the scenery. Personally, I would never live in a place that exploits and trafficks both children and adults for sex. But again, None Of My Business. And as for my lifestyle choices, here’s the thing: None of Your Business.

   
I am all for sharing ideas and enjoying discourse on social media, even with (especially with, often), people who hold different opinions from my own; I like to learn and see life from different perspectives. 

But please, try to stay nice – and, most important, read what people have actually written before taking up your swords and hollering your war cries. 

Yesterday, the world as we know it changed. As yet, we really don’t know what that will mean long term. 

And now, I’m going back to watching CNN. 

Live with it, people.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

LA COMPAGNIE - SINGLES UNINVITED

La Compagnie. They are bugging me again. The relatively new, allegedly low-cost, business class airline between New York and Paris just can’t seem to get it right. When I tried to book back in June, I couldn’t, because the sign-up process offered me no option as a woman other than to tick “Mrs” (see earlier blog, Single Supplements Extra).
Now, ever since I mentioned them, their ads are taking priority on my Facebook page – and I realize, alas, that in mentioning them again, they are destined to be in my life forever.
So, their latest crime comes in the form of an advert announcing “Lovebirds offer for two”. It’s a special Valentine’s Day deal, return New York to Paris, Business Class, for $3000. “What’s not to like?” it perkily signs off.
Where do I start, Frantz Yvelin, hot-shot CEO and founder of the airline? First, you make me feel like a second-class citizen by refusing to allow me to be anything other than a “Mrs” (heaven forbid that a single woman would, or could, travel Business Class without a man on her arm), and now you compound it by offering a deal to couples only.
I wrote in my Singles blog about the things given to couples but not to solo travelers – the Chateaubriand or paella “for two” in restaurants – and the extra charges that singles are forced to pay. The response I have had has been phenomenal, and I sense a rising tide of anger and resentment towards companies who exploit and, inherently, criticize the single lifestyle.
Some people are single by choice; many are divorced; many are widowed. And when companies reinforce one’s feelings of aloneness with their advertising geared towards what they perceive is the “norm”, it can be not only upsetting but downright offensive.
Everyone is also missing a trick. Let’s call it The Solo Pound (and please, share your stories @TheSoloPound on Twitter as well as on here). Everyone has heard of The Pink Pound or, as it is called in the US, the Dorothy Dollar. It’s the name given to the enormous sums of money the gay community spends, estimated to be around £350 billion per annum. That’s an awful lot of Judy Garland CDs.
So, The Solo Pound works like this. It’s easy: single people who have never been married, don’t have kids and hold down good jobs have money to spend. Lots of people who are alone as a result of other circumstances also have money to spend. It’s not rocket science. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US reported that 124.6 million Americans aged 16+ were single – or 50.2% of the population, compared to 37.4% in 1976.
In the 1980s in Ohio, the National Single and Unmarried Americans Week was founded in recognition of singles’ contribution to society, and the celebrations continue to this day. So why, as the numbers of non-conformists become the norm, are single people still discriminated against and even made to feel guilty for their lifestyle choices or circumstances?
Let’s go back to La Compagnie. I happen to think they have the potential to provide a great service that could compete with the larger airlines providing TransAtlantic routes. I also have nothing against Valentine’s Day – any celebration of love between people is fine in my book.
But it’s the exclusivity that is offensive. It screams “I have someone, you don’t!” Not only do you have no one with whom to share your Chateaubriand or paella, you have no one to share an exclusive bargain business flight with because, guess what, in the antithesis of the L’Oreal slogan, “You’re not worth it.”
I’ll be interested to see how many couples take up La Compagnie’s offer. To be honest, $3000 is still a heck of a lot of money, especially when traveling to what has become what seems to be one of the terrorist targets of the world. If you have that kind of money anyway, the chances are you’re going to spend it on a major airline, go First Class, and enjoy all the treats of the lounges each end.
And if you don’t have that kind of money and decide to treat yourself on the airline, upon reaching Paris you’ll discover that your spare change won’t buy you more than a baguette and an espresso (between two – you can forget that Chateaubriand). Trust me. I lived there.
There are plenty of companies offering events for singles to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, but they are very much geared towards the younger market. La Compagnie had the perfect marketing opportunity to target the singles market and they blew it. So, Mr Yvelin, as a single “Ms”, I won’t be able to take you up on your, er, enticing $3000 offer.
Maybe, next time, you could throw in a man who could pay for me. That seems to be in keeping with the spirit of the airline.
Bon voyage!