Archive for the ‘Travel and Places’ Category

Bats in the Belfry (A Date with Colin Farrell)

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
Mitzi Szereto with Teddy Tedaloo take over Belgium

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo take over Belgium

Belgium. It evokes many things: chocolate, waffles, beer, the EU, Colin Farrell

Yes, I said Colin Farrell. If you’ve seen the Irish gangster film “In Bruges” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Oh, and by the way, don’t use the French “Bruges.” Use the Dutch “Brugge” – unless you want to piss off the Dutch-speaking majority around these parts. The filmmakers either didn’t know this or, considering the derogatory comments made about the city by the characters in the film, clearly didn’t care!

So why Brugge? Why not Brugge? I mean, Paris is just sooo yesterday. Everyone goes to Paris. Brugge is smaller and more manageable, and so much cleaner. In fact, it’s one of the cleanest and tidiest places I’ve ever been. Only in Brugge would I run into some random woman from Texas whose name also happened to be Mitzi. Only in Brugge would the captain of our canal boat ask if Teddy needed a seat belt. Only in Brugge would we be given garlic bread by a couple from Oxford. You just can’t get this in Paris!

Teddy Tedaloo at the pump

Teddy Tedaloo at the pump

Okay, enough propaganda. The real reason we went to Brugge (and Belgium in general) was for the Kriek (cherry beer). Being an ignorant foreigner, I figured Kriek was Kriek. Was I ever wrong. There are many kinds of Kriek, and they vary in taste and quality. I have it on expert authority (a local) that the best Kriek is Lindemans or Liefmans, the latter of which Ted and I enjoyed tremendously at an authentic Belgian pub in Brugge (one of those hard-to-find places that wasn’t heaving with tourists).

Brugge as seen from the top of the Belfry

Brugge as seen from the top of the Belfry

As for those bats in the belfry I mentioned, I surely had a slew of them in my head that didn’t come from the Kriek. You see, I decided to undertake the arduous climb up to the top of the famous Belfry. I still can’t quite fathom why I had to pay eight euros – hell, they should’ve paid ME to climb up there. At least Ted was in a good mood. Mind you, he didn’t have to do the climbing; he left that to me.

All that schlepping around seeing the sights and trying to figure out maps with Dutch street names can make a person (and a bear) thirsty, and there’s only so much beer you can drink (even if it’s Kriek), especially when you’ve only just had breakfast, so I wisely carried a little water bottle around with me. Anyway, one lunchtime I bought a Belgian waffle from one of those shopfront windows, choosing to eat it while sitting along the ledge of a water sculpture that consisted of two horse heads, one of which had water coming from its mouth. By coincidence, this location happened to be where all the horse-drawn carriages started their journeys. I soon noticed that the drivers were using a bucket to collect water from the spewing horse-mouth in order to provide their horses with a refreshing drink. Noting the empty state of my water bottle, I found myself envying the horses and wondered if the water might be suitable for human and ursine consumption…

…When along came a trio of Italian tourists. They spent a moment contemplating the horse mouth, whereupon the more authoritative of the group took it upon herself to refill her empty water bottle. I sat anxiously by, waiting to see what would happen when she drank the water, indicating that I was most interested in the results of her venture. The signorina partook of her spoils and smiled encouragingly at me, giving the product her stamp of approval. I waited to see if anything would happen to her, such as violent convulsions or instant death. (Horses probably have heartier constitutions than Italians what with all that grass and hay they eat.) However, all was well and the trio moved off to other adventures, at which point I deemed it safe to fill my own bottle, though I got a really dirty look from one of the horses.

Teddy Tedaloo checks out the local chocolate supply

Teddy Tedaloo checks out the local chocolate supply

Did I mention that we went to the chapel known as Bloedbasiliek? It so happened we arrived right on time to receive a blessing from the priest over a scrap of cloth claimed to have some drops of Jesus’s blood on it. (Hey, everyone else was doing it!) This is the same chapel from “In Bruges” where one of the hit men goes up to the altar to touch the relic. In fact, I’m certain I saw a hit man go up to receive his own blessing after Teddy and I had ours – some Euro-gangster dressed in an expensive suit and wearing blue-tinted shades. All he needed was to carry a sign that said “I’m a dodgy European gangster” and he couldn’t have been more obvious. I won’t mention the Beware of Pickpockets signs posted all over the place. So much for being watched over by a higher power…

Teddy Tedaloo enjoys some Kriek with his mate Metteko in Brugge

Teddy Tedaloo enjoys some Kriek with his mate Metteko in Brugge

I should add that the minute it became known we were going to visit Belgium the invites came pouring in (not for me, but for Ted, whose social calendar was booked up before we’d even boarded the Eurostar!). First we met up with his mate Metteko in Brugge, where our happy group consumed plenty of Kriek (what else?), followed by plenty of Carbonnade (Flemish beef stew), all the while being serenaded by gypsy musicians from Slovakia, their lively rendition of a Russian ditty prompting the two bears to dance their paws off at the table.

Teddy Tedaloo enjoys yet more Kriek with his mate Berthus in Brussels

Teddy Tedaloo enjoys yet more Kriek with his mate Berthus in Brussels

The next afternoon in Brussels Ted met up with his mate Berthus for cake (and later, Kriek). It turned out that the waiter at the cafe was a big fan of the two furry gents and insisted on being photographed with them, afterward giving Ted a big paw shake (with yet another waiter getting into the act) as we left. I guess the first waiter was trying to make up for having told me en francais that they didn’t have any toilets and I should use my glass. It took me a few beats of forgotten high-school French to pick up on what he was saying, at which point I realised he was having a laugh. Or at least I think he was…

As for the Kriek, I’m going to check online for a supplier – one that will give me a bulk discount!

For a quick video tour of Brugge, click here!

The Case of the Missing Glove

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

No, this isn’t the name of my new crime novel. Yes, I am writing a crime novel, but it’s nowhere near to completion for me to spill the beans about it. Worry not, however, for you’ll soon be hearing lots more about my raunchy and outrageous new novel Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts due out in spring!

As for the case of the missing glove, it is, in fact, a real case, and it takes place on the dark foggy streets of Londontown. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so foggy when it happened…

Teddy Tedaloo and his mate enjoy a pint of Fruli beer

Teddy Tedaloo and his mate enjoy a pint of Fruli beer

The mystery all began thanks to my famous social butterfly and bon-vivant bear Teddy Tedaloo and his Christmas meet-up with a mate of his, who was coming down by train from “oop north.” Ted was in fine Christmas cheer attired in a dapper Santa suit, replete with hat, which ended up coming in quite handy for warding off the freezing Siberian cold that had draped itself like an old lady’s shawl over our little island. Of course no meet-up worth its weight in ale can kick off without first paying a visit to a favourite drinking establishment in Covent Garden – particularly one that serves Fruli strawberry beer. We were already halfway to the floor drinking our lunch when Ted’s Uncle Geoff turned up, at which point things began to lean a wee bit toward the surreal. Though frankly, I’ve become so used to surreal that if Salvador Dalí gave me a melting clock for Christmas, I’d likely not bat an eyelash. (The fact that he’s dead probably wouldn’t faze me either.)

Teddy Tedaloo on Thames River Christmas cruise

Teddy Tedaloo on Thames River Christmas cruise

We set off down to the river, where we availed ourselves of a Christmas boat cruise on the Thames. Little did we expect to be entertained by a commentator who could have put any of the top British comedians to shame, he was that good. Alas, nearly all of his humorous jibes went over the heads of our mostly foreign sailing companions, who seemed more interested in speaking as loudly as possible and instigating their screaming children to do likewise. But hey, it added to the hilarity of the moment, as did the gingery fizzy cocktail we were served. I mean, we really needed a drink to sober up after all that Fruli!

Once we’d teetered off the boat, we sobered up even more in the Arctic blast and had a look at the Christmas market set up on the South Bank, which featured among all the sweet sellers and soap pushers a babushka lady selling religious icons and statues from Minsk, Belarus. Now I ask you, what else would you possibly expect to find on London’s South Bank but a babushka lady from a convent in Minsk? It’s the first thing you think of, right? I have a feeling that Ted’s uncle was rather taken with her, but he decided to play hard to get by going off to buy some sweets, which we later stole off him, afterward topping up our hunger with some roast pork and sage stuffing sandwiches, which we ate while standing up, our frigid fingers clinging to our food for dear life. We next got some rubberised French crepes that were a challenge to eat, particularly with a plastic fork. These were eaten to the accompaniment of a musician whose hands were so frozen he could barely get any sound out of his guitar. Yeah, baby, it was cold.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo observe safely from the sidelines

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo observe safely from the sidelines

We rounded off the evening by schlepping across the river yet again, this time to Somerset House to watch the ice skating, where we were joined by yet another mate of Ted’s. Enter the missing glove. Apparently somewhere between Waterloo Bridge and the ice rink Geoff discovered his right glove had gone missing. With no sign of Sherlock Holmes (Elementary, my dear Watson!), it was up to us to solve the mystery. A frantic search ensued, involving much harassment of the security people, neither of which yielded a result. We ended up inside the viewing galleries, warming up with tepid and obscenely overpriced cups of “hot” cider and dancing to some very peculiar Balkan-esque music being piped in, whereupon it was decided we’d find another pub once we’d escorted our out-of-towners safely to the tube station.

The pub never happened, which might, in retrospect, be a good thing. We were in the vicinity of Charing Cross station when our glove man, who was to catch us up after one more check with Somerset House’s lost-and-found, sent a text that he was returning back across the river to the South Bank to search for his glove. Had it been me, I’m not sure I would’ve gone to that much bother on a freezing cold night in a city that is exhausting even in the best of times. However, it was probably the temperature that drove him to seek out his glove rather than endure further torment.

Later that night when I got home, I texted Geoff to see if he’d found his errant glove. I didn’t receive a reply. My first thought was that he’d been mugged during his search or possibly even run off with the babushka lady. Indeed, perhaps his claim to return to hunt for his glove on the South Bank had been but a ruse to put us off the scent. I mean, you just never know with men.

The next morning I had an email informing me of the sad news: the black glove was never found. On the bright side, however, Geoff happened upon a right-handed green glove that some other poor soul had lost, thereby giving him a proper (albeit unmatched) pair. The last I heard, he was still wearing it!

So now you know what happens to all those lonely gloves you see scattered around London. They eventually find a new partner, and live happily ever after.

Happy holidays!

Erotic Writing and Garlic

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the Isle of Wight ferry (on calmer seas)

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the Isle of Wight ferry (on calmer seas)

My sidekick Teddy Tedaloo and I are recently back (along with a cold) from our yearly jaunt to the Isle of Wight, where I was teaching my Literotica erotic writing workshop. Not unusually, it was a weekend filled with wind and rain and choppy seas. In fact, it was so dodgy on the way over that I’m certain I saw a few passengers on the ferry (and even some of the crew) texting the contents of their last will and testament to their solicitors.

As for me, I’m planning to leave everything to Ted and miscellaneous animal charities. Oh, but we were talking about my workshop, weren’t we? Well, it was yet another successful weekend as I witnessed writers breaking through their literary blocks and actually turning out some sexy prose that didn’t sound like something you might see written on the stall in a public toilet. Mind you, I threatened to chuck them off a cliff (and yes, there was a cliff nearby) if they so much as even dared to write something cringe-worthy. And having some muscle along with me (Ted), I’d clearly scared them into submission. (Notice all the double entendres?)

Although the weather proved inspirational to the writers, even more so was the howling and moaning they were treated to during one of the writing exercises I assigned. I’m sure they thought I’d brought along my own sound effects for the course, only to discover that the howling and moaning was not of the human variety, but instead belonged to the venue’s resident dog. I tell you, I’d never seen so many crestfallen faces in my life!

Now I’ve heard of students giving an apple to the teacher. But giving a bulb of garlic? Well, folks, you heard it here first – one of my students actually came up to me during a session and presented me with a bulb of garlic. Okay, so it was roasted garlic, and it was local to the island, but I’m not entirely sure how to take this. I wonder if it was some kind of weird karma thing, since the evening before I left for the island I received the publishing contract for my new anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance, a book I’ve had in mind to do for the last four years or so. And you can’t get much more gothic than garlic!

We also had a journalist from a popular women’s magazine on board to do a feature on me – and I got her writing some pretty good stuff, too. As for the photographer who accompanied her, although quite a few shots were taken of me, need I say who, as usual, stole the show? Yup, you guessed it. It seems the photographer was quite taken with Ted (who isn’t?), and frankly I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up on the cover of the magazine. As for the journalist, I’m hoping she’ll at least finish the article she’s writing before quitting her job to take her chances in the big bad world of erotic writing.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at the Village Inn pub

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at the Village Inn pub

As I usually do on these Literotica weekends, I availed myself of the local pub in Shanklin village (along with some local ale) on the Saturday evening, since there’s always live acoustic music happening. Tragically, the hottie from last year wasn’t there anymore (*sobs*), but there was a chap playing guitar and singing, and he was very appreciative of his audience. In fact, he told everyone that he’d never performed for a bear before, then proceeded to dedicate a song to Ted. Man, I never felt like such chopped liver in my life.

Before it was time to embark on the high seas back to the mainland, along with the hell that is known as “commuting through London,” Ted and I were treated to a lovely country pub lunch by our friend Ray Allen, who’s best known for creating the hit BBC TV series “Some Mothers Do Ave Em.” Ray absolutely adores Ted, and was thrilled to have an opportunity to hang out with him again (the last time we all met up was in Wales at the Caerleon Writers’ Holiday, which Ray and I both do gigs at). I had the best pie in my life, and had I not been looking at such a long journey home, I would’ve had an entire pint of the local ale rather than just a half.

Teddy Tedaloo meets The King

Teddy Tedaloo meets The King

Of course, the whole getting-home shtick is never without its usual drama – and like our return journey from the Wordplay book festival last month in the Shetlands, there was yet another strike on the London Underground. I was stressed out by the time I reached Waterloo station, but the gods were watching over us, and we got there in enough time to catch the tube before it shut down completely. I also had my faith in Englishmen restored (well, for a few seconds anyway) when a lad on the train insisted on carrying my suitcase up some stairs, and kept asking me all about myself, at which point he introduced himself as Ian.

Ian. Do  you think this could be yet more of that weird karma at work? Probably not. Though he didn’t tell me his surname, I’ve a sneaking suspicion it wasn’t Somerhalder!

Mitzi and Teddy Hit The Shetlands

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Shetland IslandsMy famous furry sidekick and partner in crime Teddy Tedaloo (or McTedaloo) and I are recently back from a glorious weekend in the Shetland Islands of Scotland (aye, laddie), where I was invited to appear at the ninth annual Wordplay book festival. Though I’ve been to other parts of Scotland (see my blog posts 1, 2, 3), this was my first visit that far north, and I was warned of high winds that might blow me over into Norway, but instead I just ended up with my hair being blown the wrong way.

On the Saturday I did a talk and performed readings from my short story “Hell is Where the Heart is” from Getting Even: Revenge Stories and two selections from In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. I think it went over fairly well, since I didn’t hear any snoring. On the Sunday morning I conducted one of my erotic writing workshops. The somewhat unusual fact that it was scheduled at 10am on a Sunday morning was pointed out to me by several people, and, though I worried that it might conflict with church services, I went ahead with it anyway, playing to a sellout crowd who clearly found some divine inspiration!

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the boat cruise

I tell you, it was all happening in Lerwick that weekend. Aside from Wordplay, there was Screenplay (the film festival), and even a blues festival taking place. Ted and I managed to squeeze in the screening of Requiem for Detroit from film director Julien Temple, who was in attendance. We even went on a boat cruise to Bressay and Noss, which left at least one person seasick (Ted was looking a bit green himself) due to the rough seas, though it was great fun when we went along at a swift clip. We were at the aft with some of the heartier passengers, hanging on for dear life to a pole, the wind in our hair (and fur), as we rode our watery roller coaster. It left me feeling unsteady and queasy for the next 24 hours, but hey, it was worth it!

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with BBC Radio Shetland presenters Amy Fisher and Jonny Polson

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with BBC Radio Shetland presenters Amy Fisher and Jonny Polson

When I landed in the Shetland Times, I figured I was a pretty hot commodity. I (along with Ted) was also interviewed by the presenters of BBC Radio Shetland’s arts and culture programme “Sideways”, and they were most impressed with Ted’s erudition and fine fashion sense. In fact, I suspect the young lady presenter quite fancied him (can’t say I blame her, Ted being an extremely handsome bear). I suppose with all this publicity it shouldn’t have been surprising that the entire town seemed to know who I was – from the local tourist office to the blokes who operated the tour boat (one of whom suggested I teach erotic writing to the other passengers). I tell you, I was feeling like a real celebrity. Until…

…I found out that Teddy had almost made the cover of the festival brochure. At that point I began to suspect that it might not have been me the festival folk wanted to grace their stages, but Ted. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been upstaged by him; however, things really became glaringly obvious when Julien Temple entered into a discussion with Ted about doing a film about his life, only to end up in tears (Julien, not Ted) when they couldn’t agree on a soundtrack. Julien wanted The Sex Pistols; Ted’s more a Temptations bear. He loves their song “My Bear.” (I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…)

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at Fort Charlotte

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at Fort Charlotte

Which brings me to the subject of food. Did I mention the breakfasts at our hotel? You’d never get that kind of breakfast in London, EVER. I asked for a small kipper to accompany my other selections, and I got a kipper the size of a vintage Cadillac. And it was a real kipper, not some freeze-dried, shrink-wrapped, bargain kipper either. One breakfast was enough to feed me for an entire week.

Of course, no venture outside of my front door is complete without some mishap. My worst fear on returning home was the tube strike, which began at tea time on the day of the evening I was to fly back to London. When I arrived at Gatwick, it was pissing down with rain. However, the adventure had only just begun, for my suitcase had not arrived along with us. I suspect it had remained behind at Edinburgh airport (where we changed planes) to avail itself of the whisky-tasting table at the duty free. Note that I’d carried this piece of luggage with me for the two flights on the way up, but encountered a problem at Sumburgh Airport in Shetland, where my tweezers appeared to spark fears of a terrorist attack.

They searched my suitcase and everything in it looking for my sinister contraband – you’d have thought I had a bomb strapped to my back from the way they were going though my stuff. When they found the offensive item and threatened to take it off me, well… I wasn’t having it. I can’t buy those tweezers anywhere (and they never caused a problem before in a carry-on), so after a few minutes of discussion, they agreed to mail them back to me if I paid for postage. Then it was suggested (especially since the plane was a small propeller one) that I should just check the bag all the way to London. By that time I would have agreed to anything, therefore I hurriedly checked it, instantly regretting it and having an ominous sense of foreboding that it would not be arriving with me. All during the flight I feared the loss of my mobile phone charger, my camera charger, numerous items of clothing, my favourite black suede boots, the Shetland fudge and Scottish tablet I’d bought, bits and pieces from the festival…

Despite my scarily accurate sixth sense, my tale has a happy ending. The suitcase was recovered (and fully intact) and delivered to my home the next night, and Teddy and I are now making really quick work of that Scottish tablet and Shetland fudge!

If you fancy trying your hand (so to speak) at a bit of erotic writing, you can catch me at my Literotica workshop in the first weekend of October on the Isle of Wight.

(A bit of after-party merriment, featuring fellow Yank, Will Kaufman.)

Mitzi and Teddy’s Excellent Adventure in Norfolk

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo (the "Norfolk Hayseeds")

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo (the "Norfolk Hayseeds")

My beloved sidekick Teddy Tedaloo and I are recently back from our first in what will hopefully be many visits to the wonderful county of Norfolk. When friends told me that things are a bit quirky in those parts, I knew it was the right place for us – and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, I got a bit of ribbing about all the inbreeding and webbed hands and feet (the same kind of jokes you get about Wales, which is a beautiful place!), but I saw no webbed hands or feet (except on the ducks), and the locals I met were friendly, pleasant and helpful.

The plan was to soak up lots of local colour for a quirky novel I’m going to write, and soak it up I did in abundance! The quirkiness kicked off a few minutes before my train arrived at King’s Lynn, with my friend and hostess sending me a series of progressively panicked text messages informing me that she was stuck in the soap cycle at the car wash and could not get out. I ended up waiting outside by the taxis with some poor woman whose friend apparently forgot to collect her from the station, and we amused ourselves by watching the gulls deposit their waste onto parked vehicles until a car came skidding to a halt before me. My friend had arrived.

Well, I felt really let down, especially after all those text messages. I’d expected the car to be covered in soap suds like some giant bath sponge, but apparently my friend managed to make it into the rinse cycle, and hence to freedom. And off we went for a Magical Mystery Tour of Norfolk that lasted for several days and probably put a couple of pounds on me from all the eating I did (did someone say “pudding“?).

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at a Norfolk pub

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at a Norfolk pub

Now there’s nothing Ted and I like better than country and village pubs, and we availed ourselves of plenty while there. My favourite pub was in a village straight out of Midsomer Murders, replete with a local vicar drinking there… only he wasn’t a local vicar as I soon found out. In fact, he was a Welsh vicar with a parish in Essex. You figure it out. Even he thought it was a scream. It was in this quaint old pub where I found the perfect inspiration for my novel – and I sketched out the entire plot on a scrap of paper in between exchanging quips with the vicar, who was a bit of a comedian. It seems his parish is very near the part of Essex where the ferries go to the continent, only he said his parish was for “the incontinent”. I kinda got the impression he wasn’t too crazy about Essex when he told me: “I love everybody, but I don’t have to like everybody.”

The Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads

Welsh vicars from Essex aside, you haven’t lived till you’ve gone to a pub with a black labrador that’s in season. We’d all just come from a lovely walk on the beach, barely missing being swallowed up by high tide, and were in the mood for some real fish ‘n chips (not sure what the lab was in the mood for, but let’s not go there). Anyway, there was this smaller male dog at the bar giving her the eye and, well… let’s just say he was interested and leave the subject before it disintegrates into non-family content.

Actually, forget about the horny dogs. You haven’t lived till you’ve been on a boat in the Norfolk Broads piloted by Ted. He’s a pretty good driver for a bear, and, in fact, he was a damned sight better at driving our boat than my friend (who continues to assert that I ran over a swan when I took the helm). But I had to get to the Broads and at least see what David Bowie was singing about in “Life On Mars“.

Teddy Tedaloo piloting a boat through the Broads

Teddy Tedaloo piloting a boat through the Broads

The only thing actually wrong with Norfolk (and there isn’t much) are all the Londoners coming in and trying to change it into a smaller version of London. There are quite a few so-called “celebrities” and other assorted riff-raff with too much money and no sense who descend on the county in their requisite Sloan Square attire, poncing about and trying to be all country-ish and “bishy-barney-bee” as they shop at the London clone shops and eat in the London clone restaurants (lovely old pubs that have been bought out and destroyed by the gastro craze and certain “celebrity chefs” who fob off their overpriced kibble on you). I have suggested putting barbed wire up to keep these Londoners out, or better yet, an electrified fence. I mean, if you want Primrose Hill, then stay in Primrose Hill!

Of course, coming home is never without its own excellent adventure, particularly when the train driver can’t be bothered to stop at my stop, or indeed, two of the previous stops, when they are ALWAYS scheduled stops. Just one more great mystery brought to you by British Rail. I had been so elated that for my journey home I wouldn’t need to schlep my heavy suitcase up and down countless stairs as I had to on the way to Norfolk (resulting in a slightly sprained hand), but not only did I end up at the next town up from mine, I ended up having to deal with stairs when I was forced to make the reverse journey back to my town. Thankfully my plight was put to an end when a young gentleman intervened and took over suitcase duty. I have often said there are no gentlemen left in Britain (especially in the London area), and I continue to adhere to that statement, therefore it was a pleasant surprise to actually find one (the only ones still alive are usually walking with zimmer frames). Mind you, this particular gentleman (not surprisingly) was from out of town.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to getting a start on my new novel, and I might at some point need to pop back up Norfolk for an inspiration fix. And who knows, maybe I won’t leave!


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the High Street

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I often wonder if I have some magnetic force field operating around me that causes strange things to happen. I admit that I keep a rather low profile locally, since I don’t want hoards of fans queued up at my front door with copies of “In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed” for me to sign. (I prefer they do this in a bookshop, where I won’t be obliged to make them cups of tea.) But low profile or not, I only need to walk a couple of minutes from home before something odd transpires.

For instance, the other week I was heading to the post office when I happened on a busker and her dog. The busker, an Irish woman who seemed to think that I was also Irish (apparently I have an Irish accent), was playing guitar and singing, and the dog, who was wearing a bonnet straight out of a Jane Austen novel, was her devoted sidekick.

I guess I’m a soft touch when it comes to animals, so I put a few coins in the busker’s guitar case, slightly ashamed at the paltry offerings of the locals. Anyway, I got chatting with the woman, who was about to pack up for the day, and somehow from all this I ended up taking on the job of dog minder while she headed off to find a public loo. There I was, sitting on a bench with this dog in a Jane Austen bonnet parking her furry bum on my foot while all and sundry filed past. A few people offered me a friendly smile (I don’t think they were serial killers), including this guy I’d met earlier, who returned to pester me to join some new gym in town when I’d earlier told him that I was happy with the one I already go to – especially since his gym would have cost me double what I now pay.

When the busker returned, I was at last free to do my post office run, afterward heading off to the bank, where, along the way, I ran into an elderly lady I thought I knew from a writers group I’d given a talk to. (By “ran into” I mean on foot, I wasn’t driving.) Turns out it wasn’t her at all, but that didn’t matter, because she invited me to go Scottish dancing in Upminster (which is nowhere near Scotland, by the way). When I explained that I didn’t have a car and, although it sounded like good fun, it would be rather difficult for me to get to, she tried to entice me with tales of men in kilts, suggesting that perhaps I could find out what they wore beneath them. Well, I’d never been so shocked in my life! Okay, maybe I have. I think she just wanted to take me along as some sort of foil, and I probably would have gone, if she’d offered to pay for the taxi.

No sooner had I recovered from this adventure when yet another landed on my doorstep, for just the other day I was running some errands when, in the process of barreling toward the greengrocer’s, I was waylaid by a sweet little old lady with one of those push trolleys. She gave me a big smile and asked if I might offer her my arm so that she could get to a nearby bench to sit down. I saw a couple of old codgers seated there and, although I suspected her intent might be to chat them up rather than rest her elderly bones, I allowed her to borrow my left arm. (She didn’t much care for my right.) There we were, moving along at a snail’s pace and discussing that all-time favourite of English topics, the weather, when suddenly out of the blue she asks me why I think Jesus died.

Well, all I know is that I wanted to buy some of those lovely Spanish peaches before the season was over, therefore I was unable to shed any light on the subject of her query. Undaunted, she continued in what appeared to be a very concerted move to convert me to Christ, or at least drag me into a church. Okay, everyone’s entitled to their own gig and I respect that, but this was getting a bit much, particularly when we got to the bench and she made no effort to let me go – or to sit on the bench she claimed she needed to sit on. By the time she began fiddling in her sleeve for some of those Jesus pamphlets, I’d caught on to what she was about and made my departure before lightning struck me dead.

When I arrived at the greengrocer’s, I got chatting with the cashier and mentioned what had just happened, only to learn that a few days earlier she too had met with the very same elderly lady who had asked for her arm to help her get from point A to point B, only to be given the exact same pitch word for word. The cashier went on to say that a friend of hers had also met with this elderly lady, and so on and so on. Seems she was working the entire street! What bothered the cashier the most (she told me she was raised a full-on Christian, btw), was the degree of sneakiness and dishonesty involved, which she felt gave Christians a bad name. In fact, she didn’t believe the old woman was infirm enough to require assistance at all, and had merely been using this as a ploy. Indeed, we fully expected to see our doddering granny go jogging past the shop at any moment! We both concluded that we would very likely think twice before lending our arms to anyone. As for me personally, I never felt so cheap and used in my life!

The following day I returned to the High Street for a bit of grocery shopping and no, I didn’t see the elderly lady, but I did encounter a group of Native American Indians in full regalia performing tribal song and dance. Having by now learned my lesson, I didn’t stop to chat.

I bet you’re thinking that it’s only my local High Street where all these curious adventures take place, but it seems that no matter where I go, this magnetic force field of mine follows – even in the middle of Central London (or, in this case, beneath it). One night I was on a standing-room only underground train when I and several of my fellow passengers noticed a moth sitting on the handrail (at least it had somewhere to sit). The man near me was discussing with his mates what a moth riding the tube might eat, and I remarked that it was quite likely curry, since the moth was yellow. He agreed as to the logic of my argument, at which point several more people joined in the conversation. We then started taking guesses as to which stop Mr. Moth would get out at. I said Liverpool Street (turns out I was right). After so much speculation on the life of the Central Line moth, we were sorry to see it go, and when it came time for our little group to disband, we did so with tears in our eyes. (Okay, so maybe we didn’t, but we did part fondly.)

You’re probably saying that all this random weirdness must be some eccentric English thing, not a Star Trek-ian force field that has attached itself to me. Well, I’ve got news for you: it isn’t. Just wait till I tell you what happened when I ran into a bunch of Klingons in France!

Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly Away Home

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Teddy Tedaloo flying Virgin Atlantic

Well, yet another visit to the old country has come and gone. And it wouldn’t have been complete without the usual stupidity of airline passengers crammed onto a flight that lasts too bloody long. It just gives you one more reason to despair of the human race… as if we needed any more!

Even before takeoff, this Virgin Atlantic all-nighter from Miami to London Heathrow seemed destined to provide endless hours of entertainment (and I’m not talking about the little video screens we had at our private disposal either). A game of musical chairs from start to finish, we had a cast of characters to rival any Carry On film.

First of all, we had a flight attendant who was a dead ringer for English comedienne Catherine Tate. The only thing she didn’t do was point at her ginger-fringed mug and say “face, bovvered?” She was kept busy trying to sort out a pair of Italian passengers seated in the row in front of me, who were evidently having difficulty fitting into the space allocated them, despite being given bulkhead seats. One guy was as tall as two American basketball players placed head to foot, the other looked as if he’d just eaten Luciano Pavarotti for lunch (and probably had).

Add to this recipe an old Muslim lady who, right at the moment of takeoff, suddenly decided that she wanted to change seats, thereby prompting a severe reprimanding over the loudspeaker. For the entire flight she kept waddling past the new set of passengers seated in the bulkhead seats formerly occupied by the Italians. Back and forth, back and forth, she spent more time on her walkabout then she did on her arse. If she wasn’t teetering past someone, she was pestering someone to get her handbag down from the overhead bin. Why she couldn’t take charge of it herself is anyone’s guess.

I’ll admit that I was none too chuffed with my seating arrangements either. Oh, I had the aisle seat in the centre section as requested, however, Teddy did not have his own seat. Clearly, this could not be allowed to continue, especially considering there was a spare seat at the other end of our row. Alas, neither of the two blokes seated to my left were amenable to shifting down a seat, despite my explaining that Ted did not want to sit on the floor. (They obviously didn’t realise they were dealing with a celebrity and co-star of Mitzi TV.) Instead they suggested that once we were airborne I move two rows back, where there was one lone passenger with three spare seats. They tried to pacify me with some chewy sweets, which I accepted, though that didn’t solve the problem – which was securing Teddy a seat.

Unlike the ever-waddling Muslim lady, I waited until we were safely airborne and the fasten seat belts sign was switched off, then popped back to check out the situation in the 3/4 empty row. Well, the bitchy queen holding court there informed me that the flight crew had told him he could have the entire row to himself so he could sleep. Indeed. Perhaps he was related to the Queen as well. Not wanting to get into a bitch-slapping session, I let it go. It was going to be a long flight, and I didn’t want to get into a fight only a half hour into it. Instead I renegotiated with my seat mates, and went round to the other side and took the empty seat, with my companions shifting one seat over, thereby leaving the seat next to me free for Ted.

Peace at last. Well, except for the South African flight attendant who kept making announcements that no one listened to. Things finally got quieter after everyone had chowed down their airline meals and did the post-dinner run to the toilet. Although Mrs Waddle continued to do her waddling and handbag thing, the stupidity on our international flight finally began to lessen…

…Until it came time to make our descent into London.

The seat belt sign came on, and we were instructed to do the usual thing: return our seat backs to their upright position, put away our tray tables, shut off any electronic devices, get rid of pillows and blankies, and get the hell out of the toilets. Of course, there’s always someone, isn’t there? Sure, Mrs Waddle continued to be as stupid as possible, though by now we expected it. However, it appeared she had fierce competition. One row up and to my left sleeping silently like a bomb waiting to go off was a young female with ears like Eddie Munster. She had slept through the entire flight. (Don’t you just hate these people???) The flight attendant had to wake her up to alert her that we were preparing to land, despite the fact that anyone with half a brain would have realised this, sleeping or not.

Mind you, I did say half a brain. Well, this dozy twat had no brain. When she finally roused herself from her catatonia after several promptings from the flight attendant, she dug out her cavernous sack of a handbag and proceeded to apply makeup to her vapid unwashed face. This went on for a good half hour. I couldn’t help but notice her dangling seat belt, which had remained unfastened throughout the majority of the flight and continued to remain thus, despite our imminent landing. I figured she would eventually fasten it after she finished trying to instill some character into her characterless face, but I was wrong.

Five minutes before we were due to be on the tarmac, she dug out some paperback novel that I could only categorise as “Bint Lit”, judging by its cover, which consisted of a woman’s high-heeled legs kicking into the air and the word “Girl” in the title. (Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover?) Her seat belt continued to remain unfastened as she became heavily engrossed in some tale of a female protagonist who was likely as brainless as herself. Guess she thought she was on the tube. I kept hoping we’d hit severe air turbulence at the last minute so she’d bang some sense into her empty head, but sadly, our pilot did a cracking job of setting us down at Heathrow.


This wasn’t the end of it by a long shot. Just as we were getting ourselves sorted to deplane, this airhead suddenly realised that she still had a ton of crap she needed to return to her handbag, so back went all her makeup, the fine literature she’d been reading, and god knows what else – I’d not seen the big Italian in hours, maybe he went in there too. Then she started to put her shoes back on. People were leaving the aircraft and there’s Miss Bint still mucking about with her shoes. It just beggars belief, dunnit?

I’ve never wanted to slap anyone so much in my life. Between her and Mrs Waddle, who was slowly waddling up the other aisle and doing one hell of a job of delaying everyone behind her, I was ready to scream. If it weren’t for the fact that I’d ordered a taxi, I might’ve stuck around for a fight. But I wasn’t in proper form, not having slept a wink for the entire flight. Besides, I had an exhausted little bear with me.

I think I need to take a break from flying for awhile…

Adventures in America (Vapour Man Attacks Rhode Island)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Mitzi Szereto in Rhode Island

Mitzi Szereto in Rhode Island

My bear (the famous Teddy Tedaloo) has recently decided that he wants to move to Vermont. Why Vermont? Well, we hear there are plenty of bears there and, being the single mother of a young bear, this sounds like just the place (providing we can afford American health insurance, which looks increasingly doubtful).

Indeed, I can envision us living in a cosy little upmarket log cabin-style house with high-beamed ceilings and wood-burning fireplace, located on a nice parcel of gently rolling land, and not a neighbour within sight or hearing distance. Apparently the price of real estate isn’t too bad there either and as long as I have high-speed broadband, who cares how far away things are? Now if there are any cute quirky little lads who happen to be single and within driving distance (bonus points to those who own a nice motorbike), we might be in business! (Note: I’m willing to put up with an American accent if said lads tick the right boxes. Hey, what can I say? I’ll make sacrifices for love. Besides, Ted needs a positive male role model who’ll take him to ballgames and such. Okay, nix the ballgame shtick, we can’t stand that crap.)

As for why we’d settle on New England, well, why not? It’s somewhere neither I nor Ted have ever lived. In fact, I recently returned from a visit there, though I didn’t make it over to Vermont, but spent my time in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Rhode Island is nice, but it’s in the hurricane zone. Connecticut is nice, but it’s too expensive and too full of New Yawkers. As for Massachusetts, forget it – that caw-caw accent would make me suicidal (please, no hate mail from you Bostonians, okay?). So it looks like Vermont is top of the list for now. I’m sure I can root out enough quirky content and characters to keep Mitzi TV going. And there’s bound to be a novel in it somewhere, too (perhaps even an erotic one, if things go well). If it’s anything like Rhode Island where I walked into a random Barnes & Noble and found a copy of my new book In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales, then it must be a good place.

Mitzi Szereto in Mystic, Connecticut

Mitzi Szereto in Mystic, Connecticut

Would I be willing to leave behind the bright lights of Londontown for the peace and quiet of New England? You betcha! Would I be bored silly? Heck no! I tell you, it’s all happening in New England. Take Providence, for example. Providence has the best falafel I ever ate – and I don’t even like falafel! And there are adventures galore to be had at Providence Airport – or, should I say – Theodore Francis Green International Airport or whatever in heck they’re calling it this week. When it comes to ferreting out potential terrorists, they make the Heathrow security team look like a bunch of squealing girlies.

Last week I was minding my own business waiting to board my flight for Fort Lauderdale when along came this security dude armed with a really butch-looking test tube and some kind of pH stick he was waving about in a threatening manner. Oh, man, he was tuff stuff. All I know is, the bloke sitting next to me in the departure lounge must’ve been on some no-fly list, because that bottle of water he was hanging onto was confiscated and given a right going over by Mr Security Dude. Apparently, this test tube paraphernalia wasn’t intended to get people high (as we’d hoped), but was there to test if any suspicious vapours were emanating from our bottled beverages. It appeared that my fellow passenger Mr Vapour Man had set off some alarm bells, because that pH stick became intimately acquainted with the contents of his plastic water bottle. Talk about rude!

The point is, excitement can be found most anywhere. Or maybe not…

Right, well, I guess I need to start contacting some real estate companies in Vermont (and setting that plan in motion to rob a bank to fund this venture). As for the other part of my master plan, interested parties – that means you cute quirky little single lads in New England (or elsewhere, if you can convince me that you’re what I want/need/desire) – may apply for the position of being Teddy’s positive male role model by sending a CV to me care of my website. Photos and gainful employment required.

Mitzi Szereto on Watchaug Pond, Rhode Island

Mitzi Szereto on a frozen Watchaug Pond, Rhode Island

That’s It, You’re Barred!

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at London Bears and Friends Soiree

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at London bears and friends soiree

Don’t worry, you’ve not accidentally stumbled into the Queen Vic to get a right old bollocking off Peggy Mitchell.

On the contrary, we’re talking strictly upmarket here. Indeed, the society event of the season has just passed. I’m speaking, of course, about the “Kristmist pinteded and fooded meetup for bearz and frendz”. Only a select few were invited to this exclusive London soiree arranged by Teddy Tedaloo, my bear and the talented Production Assistant Extraordinaire at Mitzi TV.

The event was organised via Facebook and attended by such London luminaries as Fred (a rambunctious chimp who can’t hold his liquor) and his human; Winston (a well-behaved dog) and his parents; Diane (who for some inexplicable reason had forgotten to bring Angus the penguin); and a mutual friend Geoff, who’s the only person in town I can get into a lively London-bashing conversation with.

Teddy Tedaloo and Mates

Teddy Tedaloo with Winston and Fred

Everyone met up on a rainy Saturday afternoon at a cosy pub tucked away off a main road in Maida Vale near Little Venice – a wise locational decision on Ted’s part, considering the Christmas shopping mayhem in Central London, along with what was threatened to be the biggest climate control protest to ever hit the city (whether it was or not, I’ve no idea). Being holiday time, Ted lucked in with two really posh bars of chocolate, which I’m hoping he’ll share with me. Mind you, so far he’s not made any move in that direction, though I live in hope.

Teddy Tedaloo and mates

Teddy Tedaloo and all his mates

It was decided that we needed a group photo to commemorate the occasion. Well, count on a man to sort things out. Geoff found the drunkest person in the pub to take it. After I explained to our photographer several times that he needed to push the little button on top of the camera halfway down to focus, then press firmly to capture the image, I began to suss that this geezah was no Ansel Adams. He eventually sat in a chair and proceeded to balance the camera on his nose, leaning so far back that I was certain he’d topple over and crack his skull (which might’ve been an improvement). Had he broken my camera I’d have decked him big time. Mind you, I should’ve decked that rough-looking barmaid who directed some rather rude species-ist comments our way. Good thing it isn’t customary to tip in pubs, or the beyatch would be down the soup kitchen. Having said that, she probably wouldn’t be unemployed for long. Peggy Mitchell would probably hire her, since the woman has just the right amount of “dead common” to qualify for a downmarket East End boozer!

Unfortunately, a brawl broke out between Ted and Fred, no doubt resulting from too much Cornish ale and some testosterone-infused cross-species rivalry. I tell you, you ain’t seen nuffink till you’ve seen a bear and a chimp go at it in bare-knuckle fighting. (Like, who needs “Fight Club“?) Ted was throwing jabs and hooks that would’ve made Muhammad Ali sit up and take notice! To be honest, I knew Fred would be trouble the moment I saw that chavvy bit of bling he was wearing round his neck. One of our party (whom I won’t mention out of concern for his/her personal safety) suggested that he might’ve been trying to get a bit funny with Ted; apparently the chimp isn’t averse to a bit of action, the likes of which I dare not mention in mixed company! Winston sat quietly at the sidelines, remaining well out of the mayhem and observing the fracas with cool canine amusement.

Teddy Tedaloo and Fred pass out from too much exertion and ale

Teddy Tedaloo and Fred pass out from too much exertion and ale

Thankfully by the end of the evening, everyone was friends again, though that gobby barmaid better not get near any of us in this lifetime, I’ll say that much.

Will we do it again? You betcha! In fact, we’ve already got RSVPs for the next “pinteded and fooded meetup”, which will take place sometime early next year! Though it’s unlikely we’ll be returning to the same pub. For one thing, that barmaid really got up our noses.

For another, we’ve been barred!

Teddy Tedaloo and friends

Teddy Tedaloo and his mates sober up for the journey home

Police videotape of the pub brawl between Ted and Fred

Mitzi Does Shanklin: Inflamed Passions

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Now I ask you, what better weekend to head to an island off the southern coast of England than a weekend predicted to be filled with gale-force winds and slashing rain?

Being Britain, you can never count on the weather or, for that matter, the weather report. However, this time the Met Office didn’t lie. It was everything they’d predicted and more. Good thing I was headed to the Isle of Wight to teach a writing course, not rooftop yoga! Despite the ominous warnings, the crowded ferry ride from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped. In fact, it was highly uneventful. We didn’t sink.

Shanlin, Isle of Wight

Rude local drink

I’m pleased to say that this year the island was really geared up for my arrival. They’d even brewed up a batch of some special stuff in honour of Literotica, my erotic writing workshop at the Old Grange. Hell, I was lucky to get the last bottle – apparently they were flying off the shelf at the local shop (which isn’t just for local people!).

Yeah, I know: everyone thinks I schlep down to the Isle of Wight every autumn just to teach my Literotica workshop. The truth is, I actually go there because I adore the local pub in Shanklin’s old village. Oh sure, I do find some time to teach, but I live for Saturday night when I’m done for the day and can go chill out with a pint of real ale and listen to some live acoustic music.

This year I was disappointed to learn that my usual pint of Village Idiot would not be happening; apparently the brewery had gone bust. So I opted for a very agreeable Caledonian ale, which had somehow made its way from Scotland all the way down to the Isle of Wight. Those Scots are robust folk, I’ll grant you that. Must be all that haggis.

It seemed the pub was expecting me. Heck, I should’ve brought along copies of my new book “In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales” and had a book signing! My usual table situated right next to the musicians was empty and virtually had my name on it, so I settled in for the evening, getting up close and personal to the lead singer/guitarist, whose repertoire this year was far better than in previous years. He also looked far better too. Not quite sure why that was, but hey, who am I to complain? The sight of his nicely bulging… umm… tricep as he strummed his gee-tar was a right treat after the rather mediocre pub meal I hadn’t particularly enjoyed. Unfortunately Vampira, his apparent girlfriend, was hovering around like the proverbial vampire bat, putting a damper on everyone’s evening!

Despite the musicians finishing up an hour earlier than scheduled, we were in it for the duration, and yet more Caledonian ale kept appearing in front of me courtesy of one of the workshop participants, a lively Irish lass who clearly didn’t want me to leave. And the sudden downpour outside wasn’t exactly encouraging me either. However, with the music over and Teddy waiting impatiently in our giant bed back in our room, I was getting edgy. So too, were the pub staff, as tables were suddenly being polished right in front of our noses, chairs set upside-down on table tops, and lights switched off.

Like can we take a hint or what?

Teddy Tedaloo decides to go boating

Teddy Tedaloo decides to go boating

And so passes yet another Literotica erotic writing workshop on the Isle of Wight. I wonder: will my regular table be waiting for me next year at the village pub? Will the same musicians be there entertaining the punters? Will I get guff off the bear for returning to our room so late?

Guess I’ll have to wait till autumn 2010 to find out.