Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Walruses and Hobbits - Another Doomed Manhunt

I like men. I've never made any secret of that fact.

I enjoy the company of women and probably have an equal number of male and female friends. But when it comes to dating, men really have a much bigger pool in which to fish. Where they have an ocean, women don’t have even an aquarium. I’m not even sure we have a goldfish bowl. And, after last night’s experience, I’m beginning to think we don’t even have an eye-bath of eligible candidates.
Despite liking men, I’ve also never made any secret of the fact that I don’t want one for keeps. Unlike puppies, a man really is just for Christmas. Well into my fifties, I think that is unlikely to change. I’m just too distrusting of the male species ever to be able to commit. When you wonder if you should hire a Private Investigator to find out what your fiancĂ© is up to in the limo on the way to the altar, it’s safe to say marriage may not be for you. True, it’s never got that far (the altar bit; not the PI), but I’m pretty sure everyone is up to no good. I’d make a great prosecutor. But I digress.
So, back to the dating. My friend Catrin asked if I would like to try out a free singles night in a hotel bar (I’m going to keep the finer details out of this, for reasons that will become apparent). I’m always up for meeting new people and doing different things, so readily agreed.
I’ve never had much luck on the dating front, though, as readers of my constantly Retweeted piece about the dastardly LA Singles will know. I’ve been targeted by Easter bunnies trying to thrust their carrots upon me, hobbits who lied about their height, and every chain-smoking dwarf from Wisconsin.  
The problem with this date night was that it was specifically targeted for people over 50. Now, while I am over 50, there are very few men in that age bracket I would go for unless under the influence of chloroform (Judge Alex Ferrer: you are, of course, the exception to the rule. Donald Trump: you’re not). Most men don’t age well, and while I went for older men in my twenties, I am now more attracted to men who are in their twenties. Intellectually, they bore the pants off me (metaphorically: I haven’t worn underwear for 20 years - but I digress again), but as the saying goes: they can’t do it well but they can do it often.
It’s not true that age equals experience. Men who were crap in bed when they were young are just as bad, if not worse, when they are older. You only have to look at what they ask for on the Ashley Madison website to see that. A tamer list of sexual requests it would be hard to find (just look it up when you need a really big laugh). So, I wasn’t optimistic on the over fifties front.
We arrived at the hotel where two women sat behind a desk waiting to register participants. I’m not a big name badge person, but that was the only way we were going to get cost price drinks, so it was a small price to pay for ruining my Issey Miyake top (that was another thing: dress had to be “business casual” – what the heck’s that when it’s at home?).
We almost didn’t make it further than the desk because the women had such a struggle with the spelling of the Welsh name Catrin. It was like pulling teeth. We nearly missed Happy Hour in the time they took to get it right. “Catherine without the H,” my friend attempted, for the hundredth time. Obviously, that got us nowhere either, because it wasn’t strictly true. I tell you: Jaci was a breeze in the park after that.
So, we were finally in. Suddenly, a French man (another hobbit - geez, did nobody ever hear of growth hormones?) appeared beside us and touched Catrin’s right breast in what appeared to be an attempt to secure her stick-on name badge. He was 103 if he was a day. Next, a walrus appeared at my side, claiming to be a criminal psychologist.
Oh, dear. That was a really big mistake on his part. I have spent the past three days watching wall to wall Criminal Minds, so there is (obviously) nothing I don’t know about criminal psychology. Shoulda left it, walrus. You specially shoulda left it before you asked: “What are your favourite TV programmes?”
The walrus was also in the early stages of dementia, because he asked me what my favourite programmes were at least five times. It’s always gonna be Suits, The Good Wife and Criminal Minds, mate (did I mention I’m an attorney, too?).

There was an attempt at entertaining us with a 'close-up magician', who tried to hypnotise us with non-existent snake oil. We had to imagine our hands were glued together with said oil and then try to pull them apart, the premise being that we wouldn't be able to. Er, we did.

Maybe he would have better luck with cards? "I just saw you put the card in your pocket," I pointed out. My friend thought I was being cruel, but call me old-fashioned, the one thing I want from magic is something that actually looks like magic, not somebody fishing around in their pocket for small change. My only hope was that he would be able to make the walrus, who was slithering towards us again, disappear. Alas, he couldn't do that, either. 
This was not going well. Then, a bizarre thing happened. A few Oriental ladies whose total age would not have come anywhere near 50 arrived and started to hit on every man in the room. You could almost see the words Green Card in shining lights above their heads. A bald, fat guy – let’s call him Whaleman – wasted no time in putting his tongue down one Miss Pearl of the Orient’s throat. Well, it was less of a kiss and more of a devouring. When half of her head disappeared, I was a hair’s breadth from calling paramedics.
People have always told women who want to pull a guy never to sleep with them on the first date. Here’s my advice: sleep with them only on the first date – because on last night’s evidence, by the time the alcohol wears off, you’ll want to rush the hell out of there and get back to the bar for last orders.
Now, give me a map to the twenties disco. 

Where’s Harry Styles when you need him?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Googleaphobia - and Fear of Fear

I’m not ill very often. 

In fact, the last time I had to take to my sickbed was May 1999, although I think that had more to do with the man I had just started seeing rather than illness.
That doesn’t stop me being a complete hypochondriac. I once steamed open a letter from my doctor to a specialist where I was going for X-rays, and it said: “An exceptionally healthy young woman who worries unnecessarily about her heath.”
I think it has less to do with my own health and more about how much I read about the arbitrariness of life. At any given moment, an aneurysm can send you to an early grave; cancer can suddenly be discovered throughout your entire body. Our entire existence spins on a dime.
Last night, I developed earache. Naturally, I thought it was a brain tumour and started to worry about my belongings spread throughout the world in different countries and who was going to clear them all. More to the point, who was going to find me? No one I know has my address in the US, and the first anyone might know about my demise would be the Daily Mail’s sub-editors staring down at a blank page where my weekly copy should be.
Then I noticed that the bottom of my feet were a strange colour. I took to Google to see what this could possibly mean, then developed an even worse headache with the worry of how I would live when my legs were chopped off to stave off whatever infestation was clearly developing. And did you read about this new tick that can give you a disease even worse than Lyme’s?
It transpired that my foot problem is nothing more than the brown dye on the sandals I haven’t worn for a while transferring itself to my bare heels; my ear and head problems are down to my Armani glasses. I need glasses only for reading, and my Tommy Hilfiger ones are a joy (which may be why I have had three pairs stolen and keep having to replace them). But the Armani – my head feels like the filling in a Sumo sandwich. It’s not that they are especially tight; they are just so heavy. I’m clenching my jaws in my sleep again, too – reading late night Google diagnoses does that to you – and that, too, can give you head pain.
I worry about the health and wellbeing of everyone around me these days. If my friends are off social networking for a couple of days, I am all but ordering flowers for their funerals. I see the planes and helicopters fly over the Hudson every day and am always relieved when one passes my window without exploding. I am suspicious of anyone carrying a bag and travelling by themselves (that’s me, too, which may explain why I am always stopped by Customs, who clearly share the same anxiety).
We live in anxious times – and thank god for the quick thinking men who overpowered a suspected terrorist and prevented a catastrophe on the train headed for Paris last Friday. It’s when anxiety takes over our lives that we need to start worrying (you see? That’s something else to worry about). When I look down the list of how many phobias there are, I begin to realise just how anxious I really am.
I don’t have Arachibutyrophobia - fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth, because I don’t eat it (largely because of a hatred of it sticking to the roof of my mouth, I hasten to add). I don’t have Bogyphobia - fear of bogeys or the bogeyman (but then that’s probably because when I was little, I was told that if I didn’t go to sleep the bogeyman would come and get me, so I slept soundly through his visits). 

I possibly have Chrometophobia/Chrematophobia - fear of money - which is why I never have any, I suspect. 

And I probably also have Lutraphobia - fear of otters -  ever since I saw Mij the otter in Ring of Bright Water was chopped in two by some workmen with an axe when I was seven. My mother tried to comfort me by saying it was a cousin of Mij who had come to visit (Christine Evans quickly corrected me on that delusion in school the next morning, and I returned home, hysterical). But maybe this isn’t a fear of otters, just a fear of careless workmen wielding axes, and I don’t think there’s a name for that.
My heightened state of anxiety these days, though, I am going to put down to a whole new phobia - Googleaphobia. Because, no matter what happens to me, my friends, or in the world at large, I am onto Google to investigate further, and now I live in fear of what I am going to find there.
I could just stop, of course, but Googleaphobia is a fear akin to a scary ride at the funfair: you’re frightened of it, you know it’s going to terrify the shit out of you, but you want it anyway. You’re hooked on the fear.
So, I’m going to keep going with my quest for life support from Google, just to see how many more lunatics are out there offering services they can’t actually deliver, and preying on my fears about everything in order to fill their own coffers.
My fear of having money is about to get a whole lot worse with these crooks, I fear. 

Fear of fear. 

You see? I’ve got that, too. 

Bring on the men in white coats.




Sunday, August 23, 2015

Planet Barmywood

I gave up on my guardian angel. 

Having been promised a lot of money by September 9th, I began to have doubts about the likelihood of anything materialising when some payment I was expecting this week failed to appear. Apparently, it was sitting on someone’s desk at the office, having got “lost in the system”. If an angel can’t sort out basic office organisation, I’m not optimistic about his ability to re-order the entire cosmos to my benefit.
No worries. Having briefly dipped my toe into the celestial waters, I am now discovering a whole load of other people desperate to sort my life out. It doesn’t need much sorting, to be honest. I love living in the US, I have great friends and family and really love my work. What my new band of internet helpers are picking up on, though, is that life could be a lot easier on the financial front. That’s probably true for everyone, but these do-gooders have a knack of making you feel as if you are extra special in your problem and, more to the point, they are extra special in their being the only people who can get you out of whatever mess you have created for yourself.
Today’s little helper comes from the world of astrology. Now, I have mixed feelings about astrology. I don’t believe for a second that the world can be divided into just 12 types, but it’s true that we are affected by our surroundings, planetary or otherwise. I call that science, though. Do I howl looking at a full moon? Well, no. But there are certain times of year that fill me with more joy or sadness than others. Of course, that might have less to do with Uranus (*sniggers childishly*) and just mean I can be a moody bugger.
But in my new quest to become a wonderful human being, I’m willing to give everything a go. Including Adrian. Adrian, the astrologer, who has written to me citing Susan Boyle as my role model. “Briefly deprived of oxygen at birth,” he explains, “by sheer stroke of luck (she) made it to the end”, achieving “INTERNATIONAL STARDOM” (Adrian’s capitals). She found, he enthuses, her “Ultimate Destiny, and has been living it ever since.”
Now, I don’t like to be picky, but that’s not strictly true, is it, Adrian, love? There is not an atom of “luck” in Ms Boyle’s story. She was singled out by a TV producer who spotted a good story, thrown at the altar of ratings, and subsequently sacrificed her sanity in a series of public meltdowns, one of which included singing with a mop in an airport terminal. Living destiny’s ultimate dream, or what!
Just like my angel did, Adrian tells me that I am on the verge of “something really empowering”, although he says that if I tell anyone about it, nothing will come to pass. Oops. Sorry about that.
It has to do with the “Transit Period” I am apparently about to enter, and it seems I have asked for help at exactly the right time, wouldn’t you know it, because of where Mars and its influences are currently based.
I quickly learned, from my initial mini-reading, that I am “extremely intelligent, philosophical and imaginative”. No shit, Sherlock. I “analyze everything” (double shit, Sherlock), and there is a “fog” that has been pursuing me “practically since childhood” (don’t beat about the bush, will you, Adrian?). All will become clear when I receive my six free books when I “partner” with Adrian “to combat the misfortune” and unleash my “Life Force”. Well, when I say “free”, that’s after the “MUCH REDUCED” cost of a lengthier reading, and a discounted rate that comes with another “DO NOT SHARE” warning.
Now, I see what you did there, Adrian. Like my angel, you tell me that I “MUST” act fast and not “mull it over”. You people really don’t like hanging about, do you? This is my life we’re talking about here, mate, and I don’t think Mars is in a hurry to go anywhere fast, so if a planet can hang on for a few more days, I’m pretty sure you can, too.
So, back to my Transit Period. The next 12 weeks are going to be hugely significant, and my lucky number is 10. If I have an important meeting, I must insist on it taking place on the 10th of the month (that’ll go down a blast with the editor of the Daily Mail) “or 10 o’clock in the afternoon” (sorry, Adrian, but you seem to be a bit out of kilter with how time actually works). 

If I catch a train, I must make sure I am in the 10th car (that’s going to be a fun request on the two carriage run up the Welsh Valleys), and 12 is my number for happiness, and the one I must use to conquer misfortune. Eight is my “most auspicious number” that is also “lucky for travel and in financial matters.” 

Hmmm. I broke up with one of my exes on December 8th, after he cleaned me out financially and travelled to Boston to live with a nurse. I’ll hold fire on the number eight, thanks very much.
I’m even more doubtful of Adrian than I was of my guardian angel, who was at least offering a bit more free up front. But then I’m suspicious of anyone who asks me for money in return for giving what they should, as a decent human being, offer for free.
You see? Typical Scorpio.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chemo Becomes Her: Chasing Life (and Death)

I haven’t screamed at the TV since The Good Wife dispensed with Will Gardner (Josh Charles), an event from which the show has yet to recover. I doubt it ever will, and I suspect the next one might be the last series.
But this week, I found myself screaming out loud again in ABC’s Chasing Life, when April (Italia Ricci) discovered her new husband, Leo (Scott Michael Foster), dead in bed when she delivered him an Italian dessert. It remains to be seen whether Leo died as a result of his previous cancer or April’s cooking on the Italian night she had lovingly prepared to make up for their not having had a honeymoon. Did Leo choke on a gnocchi dumpling? Did some spaghetti strangle his colon? At any rate, for the moment it’s put me off eating pasta before indulging in sex.
I wasn’t consumed by the same uncontrollable sobbing I had been when Will was shot in the courtroom, but it was still a stunner of a surprise (terrific writing from Joni Lefkowitz). Leo, after all, was the character who had come through and was being a rock for April, so to go in his sleep seemed so unjust (although I suspect that Scott’s contract for the part he landed in ABC’s new series Blood and Oil helped him through).
I love this series, which has evolved from the basic premise – a woman desperately trying to hang on to life – into a drama in which every single character is chasing life in his or her own way. It is amazingly well cast, with great performances and great writing. The screen loves Ricci, in particular, and she really is breathtakingly beautiful, especially with the short hair. I hope no one will take offence if I say, in relation to April, that chemo becomes her.
As a TV critic of 30 years, I see most things coming, but Leo’s death was another twist that completely passed me by because I was too busy thinking about other things: first, if The Man in the Mask (can’t remember his name, sorry) would have to take it off, if and were he ever to get the opportunity to perform oral sex (I don’t know, do I? I’m not very up on sexual germ warfare in the cancer world); and second, why Uncle George (Steve Weber) was destroying the book written by Thomas (Tom Irwin), April, Natalie and Brenna’s father.
Well, I’ll tell you why: because when Leo was choking on his gnocchi balls, I worked it out. The “baddie” in the novel is not Thomas at all, but George, who has recognised his own evildoing but needs it to be buried. I also suspect that George is behind Thomas’s death (if, indeed, Thomas IS dead). We might well be headed for a Cain and Abel scenario here.
It was clear it was going to go awry when April handed George the manuscript (which was very thin, by the way) and said: “It’s my only copy.” Oh, no! Not the only copy! Not the only copy that will be lost/burnt/put through a shredder never to be seen again!
This is a part of the story I’m just not buying. Number one: if Thomas was such a great secret agent (or whatever he turns out to be), he would surely have kept something on file or on a memory stick. Number two: if April is such a great journalist, she would never have handed over such an important piece of information without making a copy of it (small wonder she had the push from her job). We can only hope that Natalie has had the foresight to do that.
George is too good to be true, anyway, despite what his current girlfriend, Miss Pearl of the Orient, may think – or even Sara (Mary Page Keller) for that matter, a woman who is always gagging for it, so much so that she has now had to take up running to disperse all that sexual tension.
Talking of gagging for it . . . Will Brenna ever get through a sexual encounter without being interrupted, dumped, or being the dumper? She should take a leaf out of April’s book, who, for a cancer victim, gets more sex than anyone else within a 100 mile radius. True, her partners might not wake to see daylight, but you can’t have everything. Sometimes, it’s a thin line between getting laid and getting laid six feet under.

So, will April end up with Dominic (Richard Brancatisano) after all – the man we all really thought was “the one”? Who knows. But whatever you do, Dominic, heed this advice: no carbs before bedtime. 

And if April starts singing Tempo Di Dire Addio (Time to Say Goodbye) as she serves up the gnocchi, get out of there, pronto (or rapidamente, as the Italians say). 

Hanging around for the tiramisu is a big mistake. 

Just ask Leo’s embalmer. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Guardian Angel Speaks - Never Trust a Man with Wings, Part II

Dear Padre

You cannot imagine my delight when, out of nowhere, a flashing box popped up on my computer screen telling me that I had missed a message from my guardian angel. How had this happened? Not since I had been informed by a dating agency that “Bill the fireman is down the road and waiting for your call” had I been this excited (he wasn’t, on both counts). 

An angel, no less! What could he/she want with me? I'm not a virgin, I'm too old to bear children, and I don’t need an interpreter for my visions, so why would a winged creature from the celestial heavens be descending upon my weary shoulders?
So, I replied, and you kindly sent me the name of my guardian angel  - Sehaliah, the “45th Kabbalah Angel”, dealing with “Virtues”, and a member of the “Angelical Choir”. You took no time at all in talking with him (I had rightly guessed it was a him, given that I could see the moral lecturing path he appeared to want to take) and I have been fascinated to read the details of your very lengthy chat. 

I can only think that it must have been a slow day for you both, given the volume of your reply, and I am sure my life is about to change for the better as a result of your communications. Quite why Sehaliah couldn’t have come directly to me and cut out the middle man (i.e. you) is anybody’s guess, though I suspect it has something to do with the credit card I will be asked for if I wish to keep asking for angel assistance.
You say that you “strongly” felt the need to see changes in my life. Have we ever met? I don’t think so, but I admire the depth of your commitment following the “celestial confirmation of the problem which worries you right now” (er, which one? There are so many). I specially like your going on to tell me that the changes in my life will occur within the next three weeks.
Now, about my running mate. You inform me that “Sehaliah is the Angel who embodies faithfulness” and the “Angel of pure souls”. Quite why you asked him about Love, Money and Good Luck over the next 30 days only you know, but I like his answers.
I specially like the bit about the windfall that is coming my way, probably on September 9th. Apparently, it’s a “lot of money” that will leave me “speechless” (to be honest, any money at all would leave me speechless these days; times are tough), and it’s going to appear “as if by magic”. Love and success are on their way, too. Great. So far, so good. “But there is one condition . . . ” Oh, dear, here we go. 

I wonder if the Angel Gabriel did the same thing with Mary: “Here’s the good news . . . you’re going to have a baby and you won’t even have to have sex with the destitute carpenter . . . But there’s a condition. There’s no room at the Marriott, your kid is the Son of God, and you’ll have to watch him die on a cross.” Conditions. There are always conditions.
And this, you say, is mine: there is an “adverse karma” that is the source of all my difficulties. It’s built up from all my past lives and I’ve been paying a “Karmic Debt” that is not even of my own making! Yes, that’s right! Other bastards in my other lives have hijacked my brilliance, success and luck, and drained me of all the good things. People can be so mean. 

But now, it seems, I have paid back that debt (tell me about it!) and, as a result, have acquired a “Hyper-Beneficial Angelical Karma” that is about to turn things around.
However, nothing's that easy. It seems I need “The Divine Angelical Ritual of Release from past lives” in order for this to happen. Based on ancient magical rites written down in an old Angelical book of spells, you tell me that you are the only one who can perform it for me, Padre.
Much as I like the idea of being released “once and for all from this negative force” you claim is ruining my life (I want a list of all those past life reprobates; I’ll start targeting their descendants and see how they like their karma being hijacked), I’m suspicious that you are willing to perform it for free, especially when I visit your “Angel Boutique” and see the prices you charge once my initial free consultation is over.   

You’ve also gone a bit scary, to be honest, and I don’t think angels or their accomplices are supposed to be that. Stalked by a guardian angel? I'm pretty certain that's not a good sign.

You say that if I don’t reply immediately, you will be “forced” to offer the “Archangels’ Seal of Supreme Salvation” to someone else who finds themselves in a difficult situation. How spiteful is that! Can’t I just mull it over for a few days?
It is, therefore, with regret, that owing to the threatening tone of your final paragraphs, I must decline your kind offer to sort out my karmic debt. However, if you or Sehaliah could see your way to paying off my real debt at the bank, I would be extremely grateful.
In this expectation, I look forward to September 9th, when you will hopefully be sending me a vast sum of money that will sort out and secure my future once and for all.
Thank you again for the speedy response from you and your feathered friend.

PS Is the cheque in the celestial post?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Never Trust a Man with Wings - Part I

Far be it for me to poke fun at anyone else’s ideas or beliefs.

If you are certain that fairies live at the bottom of your garden, ghosts lurk in your closets, UFOs skim our skies, or whatever god you worship runs your life, that’s up to you.

I haven’t got to accept it and I will always demand an empirical argument to support whatever dodgy case I think you are putting forward; but it’s everyone’s right to live in the fantasy world they choose to inhabit.

Personally, I don’t swallow any of it, because every single one of these “beliefs’ (which is all they are, at best) has built into it one single thing: the need to believe in something “other” that services the one basic human fear: we are all going to die. Any inkling that there may be something beyond the grave is what people cling to in that fear: a desperate hope that it might not all have been for nothing.
To be honest, I’m too wrapped up in what’s happening in this life to be worrying about another one. I don’t want to go now, but if I did, it would be in the knowledge that I have lived a better life than most people could ever hope to do. Despite money worries (and who doesn’t have those), I’ve been fairly lucky with my health and am surrounded by the most wonderful family and friends. Every day I try to learn something new – about the world, people, ideas – and every day I count my blessings rather than dwell on the negative. It’s not always easy, but looking for goodness becomes a habit if you work hard enough at it.
I am, nevertheless, fascinated by the idea of beliefs of any sort because they are the offspring of brain function. We use but a tiny part of that mighty organ, as we know, and will never get to know its full potential or capacity in any of our lifetimes. It governs not only our thoughts but every cell in our bodies and is as fragile as it is strong.
In my effort to be fair to people with views other than my own, I am therefore going to explore some things that are totally alien to me. And I’m going to start with angels.
I grew up with angels through Sunday School. They were the humans in my Children’s Bible who dressed in white, had long hair and beards and a pair of wings sprouting from their shoulder blades. They were prone to turn up at the most inopportune moments, invariably telling women that they were going to bear children.

“You’re a virgin? Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m an angel; I can do anything.” And so it came to pass . . . And the rest is history.

My brother was named Nigel because I had wanted a baby brother called Angel, and Nigel was the closest my parents could get. I’m not sure he has ever forgiven me.

Then there was Angel Clare in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. What a wuss he turned out to be, dumping her when he discovered she was not a virgin.
I started writing this blog because I was waiting to hear the name of my angel. I didn’t request to have one at all, but while I was filling in the answers to a quiz (more work avoidance), a flashing advert appeared telling me that I had missed a message from my assigned guardian. 

Angels aren't just for virgins - or Christmas - it seems.

Padre, the “Messenger of the Angels” (grey haired man with beard, no wings), confirmed my e-mail address and told me to keep an eye on my inbox, which I did for half an hour while I awaited the revelation of my angel’s name.
I started to worry about the name. What if my guardian angel was called Bob? I don’t know why, I just didn’t want a Bob. That was the name of someone you go to the pub with, not someone you want flapping their wings around you of an evening when you’re trying to eat your curry and watch Law and Order: SVU.

I quite fancied the idea of having a French angel – I’ve always liked the name CĂ©lange. Yes, that would be a very nice name for an angel.
Finally, it came through: Sehaliah. What? I can’t even pronounce it. He or she is apparently the “45th Kabbalah Angel” . . . Oh, hang on a minute, it’s a recruitment agency for Kabbalah? He/she belongs to “Virtues”, and the Angelical Choir. Oh, yeah. That’s right up my bloody street. Not only will Angel Boy be telling me that I can't drink or have sex (I decided he was definitely a man the way he was already coming down on me on the moral front), he’ll be bringing along his goddamn mates to sing to me about it.
I was also dubious about the red wax seal on the scroll informing me of my new companion. What did the “D” stand for? Devil? Dummy? No, it turned out to be the “D” in the middle of PADRE, the messenger par excellence, who will allegedly, within a few hours, be giving my reading for free, before asking me to sign up to the Angelical Choir with my credit card.
I tell you: those virgins and their feathered friends had it easy.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cilla Black - RIP

I have never been a fan of summer. 

As a child, I felt an inherent sadness in all things associated with that time: the smell of freshly cut grass, the tide going out at the end of a day at the seaside, brushing the last of the sand from between my toes. 

My grandfather died in June, and I recall the visits to the hospital and the starkness of the greenery at Cefn Mably hospital that felt like a mockery of the shadows surrounding his bedside. I remember the darkness of his bedroom at the Old Globe pub he ran with my grandmother in Rogerstone; the sticky ring of a half drunk Lucozade bottle the only small light on his bedside table.
We are now in August, and I am thinking that I spent most of this July in tears. I saw two friends lose their sons in tragic circumstances and I cannot begin to imagine their pain. This morning, I woke to the news that TV legend Cilla Black has died, and I am in tears again.
I know that none of these people are close family members, but as I wrote in my last blog, we have, and should value, our ability to empathise with others. Stripped of all material possessions, we are basically the same: humans with common emotions, the most important being the capacity to love.
I met Cilla when I started out as a TV critic in the mid-Eighties. She was the presenter of Blind Date, and my visit to a recording was the first time I had ever visited a set. I was absurdly excited. Her energy and ability to light up a room were breathtaking. She was funny, smart, and had the audience in the palm of her hand from the outset.
She died in her villa in Marbella, which was where I last saw her. We had a mutual friend in Andy Anderson, an astonishingly talented singer who performed in local bars and who also, sadly, died a few months back. Cilla had gathered a group together, and we sat in her garden, Andy singing on his guitar, drinking Cilla’s champagne from the bar in her living room. She was a very generous host and the evening was, as others had been before, full of laughter.
It nearly wasn’t. She had swallowed one of the larger hors d’ouevres and it had become stuck in her throat. Fortunately, paramedics were not required.
It was impossible to find a taxi by the time the party ended, and Cilla kindly offered to let me stay over in “Cliff’s room” (Cliff Richard was a very close friend). I joked that I would always be able to say that I had slept in Cliff’s bed. She adored him and I know that they spent many great times together. She was also passionately loyal to him during the allegations that surfaced about his private life.
She was loyal to all her friends. She was especially fond of Paul O’Grady, to whom she had become close after he wrote to her following Bobby’s death. Paul is as exhilarating off screen as he is on, and one of the most naturally funny people I have ever met. It’s not hard to see why she would have embraced his company.
On the last night I saw her, we talked for a couple of hours after everyone left, and she was, as always, wonderful company. She was both interesting and interested, and she gave me sound advice about decisions I was trying to make. Her love for her husband, Bobby, who died in 1999, was always central to her life, and she spoke of him often, as she did her children, especially her son Robert, who became her manager.
I confess to feeling completely in awe of the woman whose music I grew up with, and whose shows were (and still are) the best that Saturday night entertainment had to offer. She was the top of her tree in two of the most difficult industries in the world to conquer – especially for women. She set the bar high for everyone who followed, and she was tough and ambitious, as the recent ITV three-parter, Cilla, showed.
Sheridan Smith delivered an extraordinary performance as the young woman from a working class Liverpool background who made it to the top of the charts. I am glad Cilla got to see it.
My friends’ sons were in their late twenties when they died; Cilla was 72 – which, by today’s standards, is still young. Had she been 100, I would still feel sad. She was a part of my history and also of TV history.
I like to think of her knocking on the pearly gates with the words “Surprise, surprise, it’s Cilla ’ere.”