Saturday, March 4, 2017

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM . . . KEEP TRYING

It’s funny how things come back to you.

In my last blog, I mentioned a memory of having been a runner-up in a Cadbury essay writing competition when I was eight. The fact that I didn’t win still weighs heavily on my heart (yes, I am that competitive). A Facebook friend joined in, having remembered that she, too, won a prize.

Like her, I can’t quite recall if it was chocolates or biscuits, although I do remember boycotting Cadbury for some time, and my taste for chocolate never returned. To this day, I can make a Flake last six months (You see, Cadbury? I can be mean like that. Your loss).

I have never been a good loser and have no idea where that comes from. My parents were not over-pushy and did not punish me if I came home without the trophy for winning the egg and spoon race on school Sports Day (I, by the way, was in my bedroom, ready to commit hara-kiri at the humiliation of not coming first).

Most of my youth’s social activities centred on ballroom dancing, where competitiveness was all. I still have the photo of my first competition, in which, with my partner Kerry (girls could dance with each other until the age of 12), I am holding a medal. For sixth place. Sixth place! Are you serious? Kerry had to go. I then partnered Janette and we won everything. My smiles could have eclipsed planets.

When I was clearing out my Cardiff house last year, I came across a book called Girls’ Stories that my grandmother had given me around the same I lost the Cadbury writing competition (did I mention that?). The inscription is a reward for something (certainly not being a runner-up), though I can’t quite remember now, as it’s in storage.

But anyway, what’s interesting is that every single girl in the book is a winner. Bullied at school? Girl rises above it and moves on to friends in pastures new, having learned a valuable lesson. Would-be jockey? Against all odds, she wins the local gymkhana. The lesson in every story is that any girl can do anything, be anyone, achieve anything.

I must have believed it.

Was that where the seeds of my competitiveness were sown?

Or was I born with a gene that makes the ache of losing inevitable?

That’s why I was so impressed with Jordan Horowitz during last week’s Oscars (see previous blog). To be holding that trophy in his hand and be able to hand it over so graciously when he discovered there had been a mistake . . . would that I were able to acquire an atom of his magnanimity.

Personally, I would have been in jail very quickly, leaving Jessica Fletcher pondering an Oscar statuette embedded in someone’s skull.

I was brought up in education with the Henry Grantland Rice adage: "For when the One Great Scorer comes/ To mark against your name/He writes – not that you won or lost/ But how you played the Game.”

Well, stuff that for a bunch of soldiers.

Much as my mother tried to foist the spirit of the poem upon me, along with Rudyard Kipling’s If, I was going to reach for those stars if I had to break my back doing so.

That was never encouraged in my secondary school. I once scored three goals in hockey and I remember Mrs Davies sternly telling me: “It never pays to be too competitive in life.” Apparently, she was very upset when I told the story on the radio three decades later.

Back of the net, Mrs Davies!

I recall another teacher throwing my satchel (complete with flask of soup my mother had lovingly prepared) over a balcony because it was about three inches from where it should have been. “I strongly object,” I informed her, only to be ushered aside and told: “It never pays to strongly object to anything in life.”

Ah, so many “It never pays” lessons. It’s just a pity those teachers hadn’t applied the same ones to the many teachers involved with pupils in that school, because, let me tell you, it never pays to be the victim of a powerful man abusing his position and devastating the lives of vulnerable schoolgirls. But when that Great Scorer comes to write against their names . . .

Maybe it was the knowledge that I was a writer – I never doubted it – that instilled the confidence and surety; and yet, as everyone who knows me would attest, I have been wracked with personal insecurities all my life. Maybe it was those that sharpened the edge of competitiveness?

I was never part of the “in” crowd – maybe that, too, had something to do with it?

But as I sit now, on a sunny spring day in New York City, overlooking the Hudson, I count so many blessings: most of all, my family and friends - because, without them, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

And, because of them and their love and support, I will always feel like life’s luckiest and biggest winner.






Friday, March 3, 2017

JORDAN HOROWITZ - WINNER

Nobody died; nobody got pregnant. 

It’s the main tenet by which I try to live my life when things go wrong. Virgin Atlantic’s terrible new website, lukewarm restaurant food, chasing Air Miles that have not been accredited to my account (did I mention Virgin Atlantic’s terrible new website?) – so long as there is not a corpse or conception at the end of my day, I write it off as an accomplishment.

Which brings me to the Oscars. Nobody died; nobody got pregnant. But on the biggest night of the showbiz year, what happened was still very upsetting. The fabulous Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres had very kindly invited me to their Oscars gathering at their beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills and, after wonderful food, copious amounts of champagne, fantastic company and what I thought had been the best Oscars ever, we awaited The Biggie: Best Picture.

What happened next is still a bit of a blur. “Something’s gone wrong,” a fellow guest said. Then, silence descended. The next thing I remember was my head on the floor and saying (possible screaming) “NO NO NO.” It wasn’t that I cared hugely about which film won Best Picture (Manchester by the Sea would have been my choice), but I felt, at just a very simple human, primal level, the emotions of those who were, by turns, elated and disappointed in the most public of places on the world stage that is television.

This was the opposite of schadenfreude (the German word meaning rejoicing in others’ misfortunes – although I suspect there was a fair bit of that going on, too). As host Jimmy Kimmel (who was brilliant throughout) said (I paraphrase): why can’t they all win?

If there was a defining moment in the Oscars’ history, it was La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, statuette still in hand, stepping up to the microphone and giving Moonlight their moment in the sun. They had been denied their big announcement, but I suspect the end result overwhelmed initial disappointment. That hug between Horowitz and Moonlight producer Barry Jenkins will go down in history not as a moment of horror, but one of strength and unity.

I have no idea how Horowitz managed it. I would have screamed, cried, sulked for days (actually, years – I am still bitter about not winning the Cadbury’s essay competition when I was eight; their loss – I hardly ever ate chocolate again. Not joking). He is a producer, he said; it’s his job to take control. But all the same, to have had your heart surge at the moment of glory and then have it fall on the stake of disappointment must have been emotionally draining.

As a result, everyone came out a winner – apart from the poor Price Waterhouse Cooper sap who was so busy Tweeting a picture of Emma Stone backstage, he handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. I don’t think it’s just down to him, though. Who was looking at the screen monitor and failed to point out that Beatty was holding the envelope that clearly said “Best Actress”?

Why did Beatty not halt proceedings when it was clear he knew something was up? 

Where is Emma Stone’s envelope, because, for all her protestations of having it with her the entire night, there is not one picture of her holding it (I am not implying she was in any way to blame, by the way; it’s just another conspiracy theory observation).

Amid the chaos and confusion, I have nothing but admiration for the grace, dignity and kindness with which Horowitz handled it all. I’d like him to produce my funeral, I’ve decided. What could possibly go wrong? Other than that they discover they’re burying the wrong person, of course.

He’d deal with it. “No seriously, guys . . . she’s alive. This is NOT A JOKE.”

Thank you, Mr Horowtiz, for showing us, during these bizarre and often painful times in which we are living, what it really means to be a human being.

There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight and . . .

Sorry, bad example.

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.